The New Jersey Devils came into tonight's game on a 6 game losing streak, but at least had just turned in two acceptable efforts against the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators prior to this game. However, for whatever reason the Devils ended up turning in a completely uninspiring performance against the Nashville Predators tonight, thus they have now lost 7 games in a row. Let's take a look at tonight's match.
Nashville quickly grabbed the first goal of the game thanks to a broken play by the Devils. Michael Cammalleri grabbed a loose puck at center ice and fed it into the Nashville zone for Taylor Hall. Unfortunately, Hall would lose his balance and the puck just inside the zone, giving Mattias Ekholm a chance to poke the puck past Damon Severson who was trying to keep it in the zone, and to Viktor Arvidsson. The Predators found themselves with a 2v1 situation against Jon Merrill and Arvidsson was able to feed James Neal for a quality shot that Cory Schneider had little chance on, just under 6 minutes into the game.
A few minutes later, Nashville would go up by 2 goals after a poor defensive display from the Devils. The play started with an offensive zone draw for the Devils that Adam Henrique lost. Roman Josi would grab the puck off the end boards and reverse it to behind the net for Ryan Ellis to start the breakout. He quickly found Arvidsson up by Nashville's blue line, who then performed a cross-ice backhanded pass to Josi who easily gained New Jersey's zone. Rather than drive deep into the zone, Josi pulled up on Kyle Quincey and then found Neal with a cross ice pass deep into the zone that did deflect off of Miles Wood. Neal held the puck for a half second before going low on Schneider. I imagine Schneider would really want that goal back as he got beat down low, but it would be harsh to criticize him too much as he was off balance having to move side to side due to the pass that the Devils didn't defend. In my opinion, the Devils skaters shoulder blame on the goal after allowing Nashville to carve through them with some strong passes down the ice. The Devils may feel a bit aggrieved on the play as the faceoff Henrique lost happened when the puck was dropped while his stick was up, but there is still no excuse for the failure to defend the breakout or passes.
The Devils did have a chance to get on the board later in the 1st period. Hall was almost able to cut the Nashville lead in half with about 8 minutes left in the 1st when Cammalleri took a pass from Zajac, drew multiple defenders as he advanced towards the slot, and then found an unmarked Hall hanging out at the opposite corner of Juuse Saros' crease. The Nashville netminder was game and made a strong pad save on a frustrated Hall. Later on, P.A. Parenteau did have a chance to pull a goal back for the Devils when he fired a puck through traffic at the Nashville net with just under 3 minutes to go in the period. It got past a screening Beau Bennett but would end up ringing off the post.
Nashville opened up the 2nd period with some solid attacking shifts in NJ's zone. They were rewarded just under 6 minutes into the period when Ekholm fired a puck from the blue line, through traffic, and past Schneider. The play started when a Zajac shot was stopped by Saros and Craig Smith picked up the rebound. He skated the puck into the Devils zone despite being pressured by Sergey Kalinin and Quincey. He was able to hold play up for Ekholm to join in on the play and then fire a hard shot on goal as John Moore battled with Colin Wilson in front of the net.
Hynes did switch the lines up a bit in this period with Hall, Henrique, and Lappin coming together and Wood, Zajac, and Cammalleri forming another line. With the Bennett, Zacha, Parenteau line working out, Palmieri saw his ice time cut as he spent some time with the 4th liners in Kalinin and Fiddler.
Colton Sissons would commit the 1st penalty of the game when he high sticked Damon Severson late in the 2nd period. The Devils weren't able to get much done on this PP due to some poor zone entries and they even iced the puck at one point.
Nashville did open up the scoring in the 3rd period on the PP after Nick Lappin took a slashing penalty on Kevin Fiala with 13:30 left. Filip Forsberg received the puck from Josi after he played some back and forth with Ryan Johansen. Forsberg stepped up on an ailing Vernon Fiddler, who was still recovery from blocking a shot earlier in the PK, and picked his spot to beat Schneider up high to give Nashville a 4-0 lead.
Later on, Cammalleri would draw a hooking call against Adam Pardy with just under 8 minutes to go in the game. Palmieri and Severson combined for some nice play early in the PP to give the Devils some chances, including a scramble in the Predators crease on a rebound, but nothing would come of it. Nashville would cash in shorthanded though. Ellis grabbed a turnover in his own zone, got the puck up to Arvidsson who moved it up ice and then made a nice pass to a streaking Johansen in front of the Devils goal for the 5th goal by Nashville. Sergey Kalinin would get the Devils on the board right afte the penalty expired when an Andy Greene shot that was set up by Damon Severson would find Kalinin in front of Nashville's net for a tip in.
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 NHL.com Shift Chart | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats | The HockeyStats.ca Game Stats
The Opposition Opinion: On the Forecheck has a recap of the game from a Nashville perspective. They are obviously happy with what they watched.
A Tough Run: Kyle Palmieri only played 11:24 tonight, 9:37 of which was at even strength after struggling to find the back of the net. He put up 2 more shots but is now without a goal in his last 7 games and has just 4 goals in 30 games. His SH% is at a low 6.9% compared to his career 11.4 SH% which is certainly playing a part. While he has looked decent at times on the PP when he does get to unleash his shot, I just haven't been seeing him do enough at even strength play on a consistent basis to give me a lot of confidence in him right now. Hopefully he can turn things around soon because they desperately need last year's version to come back.
A Small Bright Spot: The line of Bennett-Zacha-Parenteau received the most favorable zone starts but did generate some offensive chances, finishing with a CF% north of 70% on the night in 5v5 play. Overall, Bennett and Parenteau had 2 shots on goal and the trio had the majority of the Devils few decent shifts of the game.
A Frustrating Night for Cory: Surrendering 5 goals is a bad night for any goaltender. While I don't think you can blame them all on Schneider given how poorly the Devils played as a team defensively in front of him, leaving him out to dry on a few of the goals, I do find it a bit frustrating that he's not playing up to his lofty expectations. Perhaps that's unfair, but the bottom line is the Devils really need him to get back to his usual self to help get them back on track. I will say that he's the one guy on the team I don't worry about and I expect him to turn it around sooner than later.
Your Take: Voice your opinion on this performance by the Devils in the comments below. What changes do you want to see going forward? The only way is up, right? Thank you for reading!