I was initially trying to come up with a clever title for this game recap, but after the game ended, the ony thing that came to mind was John's title from last night's game. Tonight's effort from our New Jersey Devils was absolutely disgraceful and led to another game that sucked to watch for not only the fans watching on TV but also for those who attended in person.
The Lightning struck first (pun intended?) 15:36 into the first period when Alex Killorn batted in the rebound of a Steven Stamkos shot that Schneider made the initial save on. I wasn't too happy about this one as Adam Larsson lost his man and he, Andy Greene, and Adam Henrique's entire line wound up eating a minus for it. The Devils while not allowing as many goals as they did against Columbus still came out looking out of sorts.
While the team didn't have a great first period, they came out looking better to start the second period. The Lightning came out looking sharp as well, but the Devils finally mustered up some quality scoring chances, including a scramble in front of Ben Bishop where Adam Henrique had the puck on his backhand with an open net. Alas, Killorn came up big for Tampa again, deflecting the puck off of Adam's stick. It was after this sequence where the wheels began to fall off of the bus.
Henrique's line continued to have issues after Adam was shut down in front of Bishop, as Lee Stempniak had a miscommunication passing the back behind the net that was eerily similar to Jacob Josefson's gaffe from last night; Tyler Johnson recovered the puck and put it out front where Ondrej Palat beat a screened Schneider to double the Lightning lead. Stemp would also be whistled for a needless high sticking penalty after the Lightning's third goal (more on that in a second) continuing a rough night for him.
Speaking of Tampa's third goal, that might be the only one that I was okay with all night; Stralman made a nifty little move at the blue line to shake Reid Boucher for just a moment, and his soft shot got deflected into the net by the red hot Steven Stamkos. It's hard to really fault anyone on this play, as the Devils did as good of a job as they can; Tamps just made a perfect play.
With a 3-0 lead, Tampa was able to play a bit more defensive of a game, and who can blame them? They played a strong, fast game and abused the Devils on the ice with some consistency up until that point; with New Jersey not really threatening offensively, Tampa really didn't need to push for any more goals. They were able to get another anyway as Matt Carle sent a blast towards Schneider in the middle of the third that wound up deflecting off of John Merrill's stick and past Cory. The 4-0 would hold until the final buzzer which was followed by a chorus of well deserved boos from the small contingent of remaining fans.
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 Advanced Stats | The HockeyStats.ca Advanced Stats
The Opposition Opinion: Brett Frieman has his recap of the game up over at Raw Charge. I appreciate the fact that he points out the Devils were the tired club on the second half of a back to back and that the Lightning came into the game as the hot team riding a winning streak.
Props: Hard to really put anyone on the team in this category as the Devils looked almost as sluggish and disjointed as they did in Columbus. As i said earlier, the sheer number of unnecessary penalties taken by the team was the continuation of a season long bad habit. I guess I will give positive mention to the penalty kill here, as the players who were used here did not allow a special teams goal.
Slops: Can I just say everyone? I'll single out a few players I guess; Tyler Kennedy had two excellent scoring chances and flubbed them both, first by shooting into the leg pad of a downed Ben Bishop and then I believe the other he shot off of a stick that was down on the ice.
Adam Larsson had a rare off game this season, as he was directly responsible for the first goal against, and took two unnecessary penalties when the team was already hurting for possession time in the third. The Henrique-Joseph Blandisi-Stempniak line looked terribly out of sorts all game; Travis Zajac-Boucher-Kyle Palmieri wasn't much better, but they were usually tasked with playing against Tampa's best lines
Tuomo Ruutu no longer looks like an NHL player, but that's not a surprise at this point; Bobby Farnham got back into the lineup and took a dumb misconduct that thankfully did not lead to a Tampa power play. Everyone with any spelling of the name "John" had a rough game; even Schneider didn't play like his usual self. This is the definition of a forgettable game.
Get Well Soon: Despite his horrible giveaway last night, I still feel the Devils greatly missed Jacob Josefson for a variety of reasons; special teams always seem to function better with Jake in the lineup. Also, the team was essentially running two fourth lines during this game, as both the Kennedy-Kalinin-Ruutu and Tootoo-Gionta-Farnham lines produced little to nothing positive, aside from the former line having a positive Corsi. Hopefully his illness is nothing major and he returns next game to replace one of the six fourth liners.
Long Leash: I can't be the only fan disappointed in how John Moore has played recently, can I? Moore has made brain fart decision after brain fart decision with the puck lately; while he was only on for one goal against, there were a number of plays that he made over the last two games that led to a number of dangerous scoring chances, including a shorthanded breakaway for Valtteri Filppula while simultaneously taking an interference penalty.
A Random Observation: Is it just me, or does it seem like there are still players adjusting to Hynes' system as this season continues? I have never in one season before this one seen so many Devils run into one another where it has led to costly turnovers, with Palat's goal being a chief example of this. I'm not sure if it is the personnel, or the system, but players really need to sort out their positioning in the future to prevent this from happening with the same frequency.
One Last Thought: Sell, sell, sell before 3 PM Monday!
Your Take: A completely unacceptable effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets was followed up by this just as unacceptable effort against a playoff bound team. I'll be honest, I turned off last night's game and probably would have done the same tonight had I not promised John that I would take care of the recap; I support this team to the bitter end when they play with heart and fire, but those have both been lacking for the past two games. Let me know in the comments what you thought of tonight and what it means for the Devils leading up to Monday's trade deadline, as the team does not play again until the day after.
Thank you as always for reading and thanks to everyone who followed along in the gamethread and on Twitter with the site account, @AATJerseyBlog.