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Devils Downed by Dallas 2-1 in OT

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New Jersey hosted the Dallas Stars tonight, and despite striking first, went on to lose in overtime 2-1. This recap highlights some strengths, questions and the team’s position in the standings as we march towards the end of 2016-17.

Dallas Stars v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The title quite frankly summarizes the night effectively for our New Jersey Devils; while there were a couple of bright spots in tonight’s game, and the team didn’t play poorly per se, the Dallas Stars simply played better for most of the game and were rewarded in overtime. The Stars were held without a goal (thanks to some excellent goaltending by Keith Kinkaid) until 13:24 in the 3rd, but would cash in twice with a man advantage to head back to Dallas still mathematically alive in the Western Conference playoff race.

The Devils meanwhile will hope to “Rock The Rock” on Thursday night as they make-up their previously snowed out game against the Winnipeg Jets. With only 2 wins since February 19th, I can’t say I’m excited to see Patrik Laine come in to New Jersey; Thursday might be a long night...

7 games left.

The Game Summary: The Game Summary | The Event Summary | The Play by Play Log | The Shot Summary | The Shift Chart | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats | The Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: Courtesy of Taylor Baird over at Defending Big D

Strengths: The players that we expect to play well judging by the eye test were the ones who pretty much did in tonight’s game; Zajac/Hall/Palmieri didn’t produce tonight, but they still put together a pretty solid game. I was disappointed that only Hall managed to get some pucks on Kari Lehtonen. Miles Wood managed to tie Hall and put 3 shots on net tonight as well. On the back end, Steven Santini also put 3 shots on Lehtonen, which is good to see as Santini isn’t known for his offensive prowess.

I have to say overall, it was a pretty strong effort by New Jersey; I have my usual quarrels about Dalton Prout, Ben Lovejoy and John Moore in his own end, but it took a man advantage each time for the Stars to find a solution to Kinkaid. I take that as a bright sign in an otherwise dull season.

Strong Stars: Would anyone be surprised to see Tyler Seguin’s name here? While his first 5 shots on goal were all stopped (including a robbery in the middle period by Kink), the 6th found the back of the net to end the game. Dallas’ other goal scorer, Ales Hemsky, managed 4 shots on net as well.

I must be honest here in saying that I was more focused on trying to see which Devils stood out (again, everyone was pretty much “meh” tonight), so the only other takeaway I have about the Stars is what most fans notice: if they can fix their defense (and possibly get an upgrade in net) they can be a dangerous team. The Devils did not take advantage of a mediocre (at best) Stars blue line, and it wound up costing them the W for this contest.

A Word on Officiating: I may or may not be the most critical writer on this site with regard to the NHL officiating (no word who holds that title for AAtJ as of yet) but tonight was a weird night of officiating. While the penalties that the Devils took were certainly legitimate calls, do the officials honestly think that the Stars were perfectly behaved and not deserving of any two minute minors?

When Damon Severson fought Curtis McKenzie late in the second, it came after a clean hit by Sevs. McKenzie didn’t like it, but at first cleanly retaliated when Severson possessed the puck moments later; the problem arises when the puck gets moved and McKenzie continues to check Severson repeatedly leading to the fight. Now I’m no expert on NHL officiating, but at the very least that seems like interference or a fighting instigator; McKenzie did everything he could to prevent Severson from joining the play again by repeatedly hitting him, and it directly caused the fight between the players.

Steven Santini took a bad penalty that would lead to the game winning goal, but it resulted from Cody Eakin taking a pretty good swing at him moments before that hit, as Eakin didn’t like Santini working him over during a puck battle. Apparently NHL refs still haven’t received the memo about how dangerous two-handed slashes are despite the Sidney Crosby/Marc Methot incident; Santini takes the roughing minor and it leads to the end of the game.

While the Devils may or may not have done anything with a man advantage, I’m not a fan of games being decided by the officials. When one team receives the benefit of the doubt on calls and the other doesn’t, that to me is refs deciding a game.

Congratulations Are in Order: Congratulations go out to Devils forward Blake Coleman, who scored his first career NHL goal tonight. Taylor Hall played the puck into Dallas’ end where John Klingberg took it and attempted to push play the other way; Coleman made a crafty steal and drove to the net where he faked out Kari Lehtonen and roofed the puck blocker side. It gave the Devils an early 1-0 lead and some momentum, which they unfortunately failed to capitalize on.

I don’t see Coleman as an NHL regular going forward, but I’ve been wrong about player evaluation before; regardless, it’s always a good feeling when a player scores their first in the big league, so congrats again to Blake on his first. Hopefully he proves me wrong and scores many more in years to come!

Questionable Decisions: Joseph Blandisi was unavailable for tonight’s game due to being ill, so Stefan Noesen drew back in and the Devils went 11-7. I know he hasn’t been a positive at all this season, but I would have rather seen Devante Smith-Pelly come back in over Dalton Prout playing. Prout somehow “earned” 16:30 of ice time, meaning that he played more than Jon Merrill, Steven Santini, and Damon Severson while continuing to look like a non-NHL defender on a nightly basis.

John wrote a great article about Severson’s positives this year and he is definitely part of this team’s future; how is it then, at a point where the team’s season is about evaluating the future, that Dalton Freaking Prout has more ice time than not only Sevs, but two other younger defenders as well? I might actually be spending some time looking at maddening roster management decisions later this week, because I can’t understand why our coaching staff is doing what they are, unless they’re purposefully trying to throw points away.

The Sherman Abrams Section: When he asked me to recap tonight’s game, John kindly made sure to provide me with the contact information for Mr. Sherman Abrams to be able to continue this side of the season’s narrative. While the Devils earned a point, Mr. Abrams was extremely happy that the Stars earned the extra one to pull further away from the Devils in the standings. Mr. Abrams was also happy to see the Detroit Red Wings pick up two more points today to keep them ahead of New Jersey in the standings.

Mr. Sherman Abrams has become an honorary Arizona Coyotes fan moving forward and is rooting for them to win as many games as possible while the Devils lose as many as possible down the stretch. He would like to see the Devils fall into 29th in the NHL and increase their chances of drafting a highly-touted, impact prospect in the Entry Draft.

One Last Thought: Rough night for Captain Andy Greene; on Stars goal #1 he blocks Ales Hemsky’s first attempt only to see the puck get batted through both his and Kinkaid’s legs and then Tyler Seguin beat them both clean with little resistance in OT. It’s been a rough run for Greene and I think the time off coming up will do him some good, mentally and physically.

Your Take: The Devils dropped their 15th games out of the past 17 with this 1-2 OT loss to Dallas. Are we even really surprised at this point? I have to say that I’m personally disappointed, but not surprised. What is your take on this particular game? What was good and what was bad in your eyes? What do you see the Devils doing with their remaining 7 games? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about tonight’s game in the comments below.

Thanks for reading as always and thanks to everyone who commented in the Gamethread and/or followed along on Twitter with @AAtJerseyBlog.