The game ended at 1:53 AM EST and the winning streak ended at five games. The New Jersey Devils lost to the Anaheim Ducks, 2-3. While a loss in of itself is not bad, how it happened would leave a bitter taste in the collective mouths of some Devils fans. The Devils built up a 2-0 lead in the second, saw it disappear within sixteen seconds in the second period, conceded the game winner with less than five minutes left in regulation, and did not take advantage of an opportunity to tie it up after that.
Let’s start with that end first. Tonight’s game featured plenty of no calls. The first period featured multiple instances of hooking and interference but with only one whistle - against Adam Henrique for a stupid cross-check into Rickard Rakell’s numbers. That was a legitimate penalty; the uncalled others were not. But shortly after the Ducks took the lead, Josh Manson tripped Pavel Zacha. With 3:29 left to play, had the chance to tie it up. The power play was 0-2 earlier in the evening. In this late one, the Devils had one (1) shot on net from Damon Severson, two (2) additional shooting attempts by Severson (one blocked, one missed), and one (1) shooting attempt from John Moore (blocked). That’s just deflating to go over. It’s one thing for a power play to not score, it’s another thing to not score in 24 straight opportunities, and it’s another to have a man advantage and the only ones firing away are the single defensemen when each unit had four forwards. Yes, Taylor Hall and Michael Cammalleri are not available, but where were the looks for Kyle Palmieri? Was anything even set up for Adam Henrique or Travis Zajac? What of P.A. Parenteau on the second unit? The power play not scoring certainly did not cost the Devils this game, but it could have provided the lead for New Jersey (they had an earlier advantage in the third period) or tied it up late. It remains a current issue for this team.
Now let’s get into the goals against. I do apologize that in the game preview, I did not give enough attention to Anaheim’s second line. Ryan Kesler, Jakub Silfverberg, and Andrew Cogliano were Anaheim’s best unit tonight. From an attempt-differential standpoint, they were Anaheim’s best in this game. From a shot-differential standpoint, they were Anaheim’s best forwards in this game. From a pure shots standpoint, the trio had a combined seven out of Anaheim’s 23 shots. Most of all, they scored two of Anaheim’s goals - including the game winner. Let’s look at the two goals allowed within sixteen seconds in the second period first:
The first goal against came from a great pass by Ryan Getzlaf. John Moore did his best to stay with him, but Getzlaf’s turn behind the goal line gave him space. While Adam Henrique picked up Corey Perry and Kyle Quincey was watching the puck, Rickard Rakell skated into the slot. While Rakell was not directly covered, Getzlaf fit a pass through a tight window to get the puck to Rakell. Rakell’s one-timer was initially stopped by Cory Schneider but it trickled through to make it 2-1.
About eight seconds later, Jon Merrill attempted to clear the puck in face of pressure (namely, Cogliano). Merrill was inserted into the lineup in place of Yohann Auvitu, who was said to be banged up and therefore given the night off. Merrill appeared to be pretty good for most of the night. Unfortunately this play may be his highlight. The zone exit was denied at the point by Korbinian Holzer. The puck bounces past Merrill and Cogliano collects it. The Devils are caught out; four Devils are looked at Cogliano, who had a lane at Schneider. Cogliano also had a big passing lane diagonally across the slot to a rushing Silfverberg. He received the pass, he took a touch, and then fired a rolling puck to the far post past Schneider. It was not the world’s worst giveaway, but it created the opportunity for a quick goal. Just like that, the 2-0 lead went up in smoke.
Adding to the pain of losing a lead that quickly is that the second period was otherwise not a bad one for the Devils. After a fairly evenly played first period and a minor penalty seven seconds into the second by Beau Bennett, the Devils really started driving at the Ducks. They would end up out-attempting them 25-11 in 5-on-5 play. However, most of those attempts did not translate into shots on net. Out of those 25 attempts, only nine were on target - and the Devils did not get any on their first power play of the night. They did, however, score two goals.
After a not-so-good outing in Dallas, the unit of Devante Smith-Pelly, Jacob Josefson, and Reid Boucher were much more active tonight. Boucher put up six shots on net and is kicking himself for being robbed by Jonathan Bernier on a rebound in the game. He’s a shooter, he needs to shoot, and so he did. Josefson was much more positive. But it was DSP who had the most notable contribution out of his four shots: a goal. He went right to the net after the Devils won an offensive-zone faceoff and so he was in position to re-direct a shot by Kyle Quincey that beat Bernier.
Minutes later, Quincey would strike again from distance. After Henrique and Zacha moved the puck to create some space, Zacha found Quincey all alone at the center point. Quincey fired a rocket of a slap shot over the shoulder of Bernier. It was a fantastic shot by Quincey and Zacha’s first point in quite some time. Any Devils fan who stayed up late to watch this live must have felt real good after seeing this one. And even better after Anaheim burned their timeout challenging this goal for goaltender interference, which easily failed.
Alas, in a few minutes, the Devils were stunned by two quick goals before the end of the second period.
However, we must return to the game winning goal and it did come from the Kesler line. In fact, it came from Ryan Kesler himself. And it came off a play where the Ducks were just more effective than the Devils.
Manson and Silfverberg battled in the corner and Silfverberg won the puck. Severson appeared to be in his way for a pass to the slot. However, Silfverberg made a better pass. While that battle was happening the corner, Zajac was right on Kesler. When Silfverberg won the puck, Kesler charged into the slot and Zajac was right with him. P.A. Parenteau provided support in case the puck went past them. Zajac and Kesler were tied up, but the puck hit off Kesler, Schneider stopped a short shot, but Kesler was able to pull away to retrieve the short rebound and put it past Schneider’s pad. In hindsight, it’s easy to point out what could have been done better. Live, it was not as if the Devils had a bad breakdown or made a critical error like a giveaway. Silfverberg made a great pass and Kesler made a great effort to get onto the puck. Unfortunately, it came late in the third period in a 2-2 game and it ultimately sank the Devils.
What could have been better? A couple of things come to mind. Accuracy, for one, as only 29 out of the team’s 66 shooting attempts were on (or in) the net. The power play remains scoreless and without many shots. The top unit of the Zajac line with Andy Greene and Severson struggled against the Kesler line in 5-on-5 play, although the other Devils were more positive in the run of play. Was this a bad loss? Even with a late game winner, I don’t think so. This was not at all like the Boston game where the Devils had the smallest of leads and got rolled in the process of losing it. The Devils eventually carried the play at even strength and they received good nights out of several players. Alas, a lead was lost and, with that, so was a winning streak in Anaheim.
The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats | The HockeyStats.ca Game Stats
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Anaheim Calling later for a recap of their win.
Your Take: As this was a late night game locally in New Jersey, this summary of the game will suffice as a recap. Don’t worry, it won’t become the norm. If you did see this game - either live or after it happened - what did you think? Who was the best Devil on the ice in your eyes? Who could and should have done better? What can the Devils do on their power play? What should the Devils learn from this loss ahead of their next game in Los Angeles?
I thank all of those who stayed up and commented in the Gamethread live for this one. Thank you for reading.