In order to summarize the general sentiment of this game, allow me to provide the following fact from tonight's game between the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers. In the third period, it was a 2-2 game. At the 7:50 mark - meaning there as 12:10 left in regulation - Jordin Tootoo put a shot on net. Minutes later, the third line got pinned back and it ultimately cost the Devils when Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare beat John Moore to a rebound. That made it 2-3. It would not be until the 19 minute mark when the Devils would get their next shot on goal. Fortunately, that shot turned out to be a goal. Mike Cammalleri put home a loose puck to convert a power play and tie up the game. Unfortunately, that long stretch of shotless hockey by the Devils represented the bleakness of this game. And it would be their last shot of the entire game.
The Devils lost this one to the Second Rate Rivals - who were anything but tonight - in overtime. It is the first time they allowed a goal in 3-on-3 play in both this preseason and this regular season. Matt Read hit Kyle Palmieri high, took a loose puck, led a 2-on-1, and beat Cory Schneider for the win. I thought it hit the crossbar, but that was the fault of my perspective. Schneider got a piece of the shot with his arm, but it wasn't enough and it dropped over the goal line. The referees reviewed it to ensure it was an onside play (it was). I can understand the frustration over the no-call on Read, but the refs can't go back in time and erase the goal for a whistle they should've blown. It was a deflating finish, certainly. Yet, I cannot say it wasn't deserved. Again, the Devils did nothing in overtime for themselves but survive the Flyers' attacks, change players, and attempt to do something on offense.
A lot of credit should go to the Flyers' coaches tonight. Dave Hakstol devised a game plan that just worked wonders against the Devils. Their defense remained patient in their own end and when the Devils would inevitably make a bad decision or an error at moving the puck, they were able to stop the attack and go forward. Their neutral zone play just frustrated the Devils all night long, which only made it easier for the Flyers to defend their end. While the Flyers' offense wasn't exactly clicking, they were able to pin the Devils back multiple times and ultimately got a goal out of it. Their forecheck really gave the Devils problems. Forcing passes in their own end is one thing, but with the passes as poor as they were tonight, it allowed the Flyers to keep up the pressure - or at least keep the Devils from going forward. My concern is that other teams will see this performance and try to copy that against the Devils in future games.
Of course, the Devils were seemingly more than happy to oblige in making this game as difficult as possible. The passing was very poor. The team played like they weren't on the same page on some shifts, leading to some real issues. Their decision making on offense was equally poor. Again: in a tied or one-shot game in the third, no shots on net for over ten minutes? Not even an easy one against Michal Neuvirth, who gift wrapped one early to Stefan Matteau? That's just not good. Neuvirth could have been ripe for a long night, but the Flyers' and Devils' skaters combined to make it easier on him. The simplest way I can describe it is that this is how the Devils would look when their top two lines are struggling. Because they really did struggle. The silver lining throughout the game was that the score was close, but the way the Devils performed for most of it, it didn't feel close at all. Fortunately, they found ways to tie it up and force overtime.
While it never feels good to get outplayed by a rival, at least they didn't end the night with nothing. Kyle Palmieri and Mike Cammalleri really had rough games overall, but they both scored equalizers within the third period. (Thanks to Bellemare for tripping Josefson late in the game) As much as the Devils' skaters had issues in all three zones, it's not like Philadelphia completely ran them over seeing that they only allowed 23 shots in regulation. They still forced a situation where they could have taken the game. They didn't - no shots at all in overtime - and so Read ended it. I can't say the Flyers didn't deserve the win, but I will say the Devils got a point they didn't really deserve. Hockey, like life, isn't about deserves though.
The Opposition Opinion: Kurt R has this recap at Broad Street Hockey. This win was the fourth one in a row for Philadelphia. They are on a winning streak.
The Game Highlights: The highlight video from NHL.com for tonight's game is here:
The Wrong Side of Low Event Hockey: Not only was tonight's shot count low at 18-25 against the Devils, the attempts were rather low. Natural Stat Trick tabulated them at 32-44 against the Devils in all situations and 27-35 against the Devils in even strength situations. I know the scorer at The Rock undercounts events, but it matches up with how this game went. The Devils going forward with the puck tonight was akin to squeezing a stone and hoping blood would come out. The larger point here is the disparity. The Flyers essentially played a similar game to how the Devils have been playing for the last few years and ensnared the Devils. It highlighted the lack of offensive talent the Devils still currently have, Cammalleri's point totals notwithstanding. And that it went on all game showed that Hakstol got the better of John Hynes tonight, close score aside. Again, my fear is that other teams will see what the Flyers did tonight and look to replicate that against the Devils in future games.
Curious Usage: Upon looking at the Event Summary, I was surprised to see that Palmieri only played 12:41 tonight. Patrik Elias, who did nothing much other than one good pass to Palmieri for a goal, played more than Palmieri. Jacob Josefson, who didn't even have a good pass for a goal, played much more than Palmieri. Stefan Matteau, who, OK, had a pretty good game for him, played more than Palmieri. I know he took a hooking penalty that was eventually answered by Claude Giroux in the second period. According to the Time on Ice report, he had two more shifts then and then didn't appear with 7:23 left to play in the middle period until he came on for the end of the Devils' first power play of the third period. Did Palmieri leave the game for some reason at that point? Was he benched? It's really weird that with the Devils' offense as it is that he would play so few minutes.
Crushed: The top line of Adam Henrique, Cammalleri, and Lee Stempniak had a really bad game. They got crushed by Giroux, Brayden Schenn, and Michael Raffl. While Cammalleri had three shots tonight, all of them were on the power play (only one power play shot tonight wasn't his). The trio put up a big, fat nothing on the shot count and very few attempts at evens. Cammalleri was a standout with his equalizer late in regulation and he picked up an assist on Palmieri's goal, so he remains hot. Yet, the run of play was very much against them. And it happened a lot as each played over twenty-two minutes (!!) tonight. There will be nights where a line just doesn't have it and/or gets outplayed by their opposition. Yet with the Devils' thin offensive depth, it's a problem when it happens. It's magnified when they play a lot of minutes like they did. They need to be sharper going forward.
PK Busted: Andy Greene and Adam Larsson had to play a lot of this game in their own end. What really cost them was that Greene committed two fouls. In the first period, he tripped Chris Vande Velde. Eight seconds after that call, Jakub Voracek found Wayne Simmonds - more accurately, his skate - on Schneider's right flank. In the second period, he cleans up a loose puck early into the penalty kill for Palmieri's hook on Giroux. The problem is that he cleaned it up by firing it over the glass. The Flyers would eventually convert the two man disadvantage for New Jersey when Voracek found Giroux with a pass across the low slot. Schneider may have dived early, but Giroux just needed to not miss and he didn't. The PK hasn't been lit up like that in sometime and the Flyers did very well on their power play. But not having Greene on those kills did hurt and it contributed to how tonight went on the scoreboard.
On the flipside, the Devils did score a power play goal and got one right after a power play ended. Yet, only four shots on four advantages and nothing quick with a man advantage meant plenty of time where the Devils just had issues maintaining control of the puck on offense.
Schneider Not So Super: Truth be told, Neuvirth gave up the softest goal of the night. Seriously, Matteau fired a shot from just about the goalline and it snuck in. That was a great gift to New Jersey. Yet, Cory Schneider didn't have a stupendous night himself. I don't think he had a fair chance on the first three goals. Sure, he may have dove prematurely, which just conceded the net to Giroux. But that kind of a pass just puts most goalies out of position just by it's nature; it was up to Giroux and Lady Luck as to whether the puck would go on. I don't think not diving or delaying it would have stopped the goal. The overtime winner was a poor one to allow. I'm sure he'd like that one back against Read. Ultimately, four goals out of 25 shots against is a surprise given how well Schneider has been this season (and last season and the season before that). He's only allowed four in one other game this season, the big comeback win in Ottawa in October. I don't think this is a sign that he's going to have some rough games ahead. I think he's more than earned the benefit of the doubt. Yet, tonight was is a reminder that he can't just bail out the Devils when the rest of the skaters aren't giving him much to work with. I expect him to better in the next game.
I Missed Travis: Specifically, Travis Zajac. While I don't think he would have immediately turned this game into a win, it would have allowed the Devils to have two fully fleshed out lines. His presence would have helped on special teams. With the Henrique line getting wrecked as they did, Hynes could have switched the lines or the match-ups so Zajac could handle Giroux instead. His absence may not be for long but with so many games on the schedule, he could be missed for several nights to come.
Returns to the Lineup: Bobby Farnham played as well as one could expect out of Farnham. So there was that. Sergey Kalinin really didn't do too much; I thought his game was anonymous and he wasn't all that of a positive factor with the puck or on defense. David Schlemko played a decent game on defense. Definitely a less risky player than Eric Gelinas. I would like to see Jon Merrill switched out with Gelinas just to see how a Schlemko-Gelinas pairing would operate, but that's just me. At least Matteau continued to look good, though he didn't really "return" tonight.
Seriously, This is a Non-Call?: I know it's in the past, but user CaramelCoveredXMas found and posted this .GIF in the Gamethread. In it, Read clearly hit Palmieri in the head before he took the puck and went off on the game winning 2-on-1. I sit in Section 1, so live, I didn't pick up on it. Now that I see this, I'm just shaking my head.
One Last Thought: The Devils' dads were in attendance tonight. Clearly, their presence alone does not guarantee a good performance. Sorry, dads.
Your Take: While the Devils lost this one in overtime, I thought the Flyers were clearly the better team on the ice. What did you think? Who, if anyone, had a good game for the Devils and why? What aspect of the performance bothered you the most? What can the Devils learn from this game ahead of their next game against Florida on Sunday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's loss in the comments.
Thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and followed the site's user account on Twitter, @AATJerseyBlog. Thanks to Brian for doing the game preview on such short notice. Thank you for reading.