First Period: The first minute of the game didn’t involve much drama, aside from a puck that Cory Schneider steered aside and made the Devils defense scramble a bit. The Devils iced the puck twice afterwards. Schneider made his first stop of the game two minutes and 10 seconds in. Martin Jones made his first stop three minutes and 10 seconds in on a long Travis Zajac wrist shot that may have been an attempt at creating a tip for Michael Grabner.
Cory Schneider made the first big stop of the game with a pad save nearly five minutes into the game, when John Moore blocked a pass to Joe Pavelski, but nearly hit it into the net. Taylor Hall cleared the rebound from the slot, and the Devils averted a potentially dangerous situation.
The Sharks started the scoring when Paul Martin missed on a shot and Eric Fehr deflected the puck off Will Butcher’s stick and above Schneider’s shoulder. Fehr nearly scored on the following possession, alone in front of Schneider.
The Devils drew a penalty six minutes and four seconds in when Michael Grabner was interfered with in the offensive zone by DeMelo.
Sami Vatanen drew a hooking call, and was able to continue the power play. Travis Zajac and Patrick Maroon came close to scoring in front of the net as it became six-on-four.
On the five-on-three, there was a flurry of Devils trying to score near the net again, but Jones kept the puck out again and the Sharks cleared the puck. The closest the Devils came to scoring was when Damon Severson centered the puck to Brian Boyle in front of Jones at the end of the power play, but Boyle couldn’t control the puck.
At the midway point of the period, both teams were getting chances. It seemed when the Sharks gained the zone, it was hard for the Devils to get them out. The Devils came close a couple times on the power play, but were not quick enough on loose pucks.
Taylor Hall scored out of nowhere when the puck was cleared and Taylor Hall took it from two Sharks defensemen near the blue line, just inside the zone, and ripped it above Martin Jones’ glove. It was a terrific goal.
After the goal, Brian Boyle took a tripping call. The Devils went to the kill with Zajac, Grabner, Ben Lovejoy, and Andy Greene to start. The Sharks won the faceoff clean, but the puck went all the way back to their defensive zone. They gained the zone fully about 40 seconds in. Brent Burns passed it to Kevin Lebanc, and he took a shot that was redirected by Joe Pavelski, and the Sharks scored.
The Devils got sloppy with their defense shortly after. Trying to transition, the Devils turned it over. Scrambling back, Mikkel Boedker was left all alone but his wrist shot went wide. It stayed 2-1.
After a shift where the Devils came close to scoring, especially on a chance for Stefan Noesen in front as Damon Severson was behind the net and got the puck to him, the Sharks got it behind everyone to Jannik Hansen. He left Patrick Maroon in the dust, and Schneider couldn’t stop him on the breakaway. Alas, the Sharks scored again - and it was Jannik Hansen’s first of the season, in his 40th game.
After the third goal, the Devils seemed to have something taken out of them. They Sharks kept the pressure going for about a minute, and Severson iced it with a bit over two minutes and 30 seconds left. The fourth line had more ability to disrupt the Sharks, with Boyle and Jesper Bratt disrupting a few passes and almost counterattacking. Jesper Bratt took a hard hit from Martin and then a glove to the face from Melker Karlsson on that shift.
Cory Schneider was absolutely vulnerable with about a minute left, down on the ice with two Sharks around him. He made a pad save, the Sharks passed it to the high slot, and the Devils clogged the lane long enough to allow Schneider back into position.
After that scramble, the period winded down without anymore drama. Attempts did not pan out, and the period ended with the Sharks leading three to one. The Devils led in shots 12 to nine, but they could not capitalize with the same success rate the Sharks could.
Second Period: The Devils looked better to start the second period than they did to end the first. Rather than getting pinned back constantly, the Devils pushed the Sharks back more in the opening minutes of the period.
Joe Pavelski got on a partial breakaway over four minutes into the period. Backhanding it from the circle, Schneider couldn’t get it with his blocker but it rang off the pipe. I initially thought it was in, but fortunately I was mistaken. Frankly, Schneider did not look sharp at all. He seemed slow to react continually in the first and then to start the second.
Michael Grabner just missed on a goal seven minutes into the period. Travis Zajac sent a beautifully looking pass across the crease to Grabner on the doorstep, but it didn’t connect. The play went back in forth, and another attempt at a redirection was broken up by Brenden Dillon. Grabner soon after got off a regular shot, but it was frozen by Martin Jones.
Blake Coleman came very close to slamming a rebound into the net. Off a Stefan Noesen shot, Coleman fell as he put all of his force into trying to score, but the puck hit off the outside of the post.
The fourth line soon after continued to pressure. Off a turnover, Drew Stafford got a shot off that was stopped, and Boyle followed up with a threatening wrist shot. Just seconds later, a puck rolled on Boyle’s stick and he missed on a shot.
Cory Schneider let in a fourth goal after Damon Severson missed on a puck, leading to a two-on-one. John Moore took away the pass, but a very stoppable shot got through Schneider. As a result, the goaltender was pulled for Keith Kinkaid.
On the first shot on Kinkaid, Couture roofed the puck right under the bar. Now in a 5-1 game, things were absolutely out of hand. The Devils were pressuring offensively in the period, but they were allowing far too many odd-man chances and open shots.
Vatanen came close to jumping on a rebound,but Brent Burns slashed the stick out of his hands. Stafford couldn’t get the puck over the pad, and the rebound came to Vatanen alone in front of the net, and Burns got him from behind.
The power play was pretty useless most for of its time. The Devils power play continued to just make a case for firing Geoff Ward.
Taylor Hall was shaken up following a hard collision alongside the boards with Evander Kane. After having trouble getting up and a stoppage, the Devils scoring leader went to the locker room in a game that they were losing 5-1. As the Devils faithful held their collective breath, Taylor Hall regained his breath during the commercial break and came back into the game. He was winded. The season was not over.
After play resumed, the Devils took a bench minor for too many men on the ice. It was mind boggling that so many things could go so purely wrong. Brent Burns gave the puck to Mikkel Boedker in the circle, and he roofed it. 6-1. Not much happened for the rest of the period, but things had gone fully from bad to worse.
Third Period: The most notable thing to happen the first quarter of the third period was when nobody picked up Evander Kane in the high slot, and he got an open shot on Kinkaid. It was steered aside, but the Devils were still appearing sloppy in their defense.
Some lines did better than others at trying to show some semblance of offense. Regardless, the Sharks were content to bank the puck out of the zone whenever possible. The Devils couldn’t get anything going for the first half of the final period as a result of San Jose’s ability to disrupt the flow of play.
Michael Grabner drew another penalty. This one was for holding, committed by Dylan DeMelo near the Devils’ offensive zone blueline. The penalty likely prevented a chance for Grabner. Yet again, the Devils were unable to convert on the power play.
In the final minutes of the game, the pace of play had wound down so much it was hard to care when the Devils scored their second goal of the game. Blake Coleman, on assists from Patrick Maroon and Drew Stafford, got the goal.
The Opposition Opinion: Fear the Fin should have a recap.
Cory Schneider, In Review: Cory Schneider, the Devils starting netminder, allowed four goals on 14 shots, for a .714 save percentage. He has now not won a game since December 27 versus Detroit. He has allowed three or more goals in every game he has appeared in since, and only his January 22 loss to Detroit featured a save percentage of .900 (three goals on 30 shots). Now 0-9-2 in his last 11 games, it’s hard to say what John Hynes should do with the goaltender. Are we at the point that, if the Devils want to make the playoffs, he simply cannot be in the game? The two halves of his games played have been night and day, and he has shown that he is not a reliable option in net.
Now, John Hynes has a decision to make. Does Keith Kinkaid start the rest of the year? You may be thinking that the goals Schneider gave up were on plays that he could not control. Of course, two of the goals came on deflected shots. But he did not look sharp throughout his time in net tonight. Was he rusty? Perhaps, as his last start was nearly two weeks ago. But did he give us any reason to believe he’s ready to take back the reins of the starting job? The Devils have to go with what makes them win. It’s too late, and the margin is too thin to play with the goalie situation.
But Let’s Be Honest, This Wasn’t Primarily the Goaltenders’ Faults: In my last recap, I complimented John Moore. I made a mistaken assumption that he was starting to do things that might make him a better player. Perhaps it’s just the pendulum evening itself out - the law of averages coming to bite us all by making John Moore play absolutely terribly tonight. When him and Damon Severson were on the ice, the Devils gave up ten scoring chances. Ten. Two goals against resulted from their poor defense. What I noticed in John Moore tonight was he was not keeping his feet moving, resulting in him chasing the opposition he was supposed to have covered on multiple occasions. For example, John Moore is faster than Patrick Maroon. Or so we think - as Moore ended up behind Patrick Maroon as they tried to catch Jannik Hansen before he left them in the dust on his breakaway goal in the first period.
Who Did Okay?: Statistically, Drew Stafford probably had the best game. He had two assists, including the sole assist on the flip that Hall took away from the Sharks and scored on. He wasn’t on the ice for any goals,being the one of two players to have a positive goal differential. Stafford also had the best team scoring chance differential when he was on the ice, tied with Maroon with a 11 to five ratio. He was tied with Hall in shots on goal with four, and play seemed to go the right way with the fourth line on in general. Boyle Bratt, and Stafford were three of five players to not be on the ice for a five-on-five goal and three of four to not be on the ice for any goal. Hischier was not on the ice for any, and was on the ice for the Hall goal. Greene was on the ice for the Pavelski power play redirection goal, but no even strength goal. The only knocks on the fourth line was that Stafford could not lift the puck over a down Martin Jones, and Boyle could not control passes at least twice that could have resulted in goals with clean shots.
Throwback: Remember when the Devils first played the Sharks this year? I believe it was the first regular season game I recapped. There was this section of it that made me laugh. I'll just quote it:
Power Play: Throughout last season, I advocated for the firing of Geoff Ward. Through a few games this year, the power play looked pretty good. But it wasn’t because Ward’s power play is remotely well designed. As we saw tonight, the pure talent of a few players cannot defeat soundly positioned players very often. I’m not calling for the chopping block yet, but I think that this is something that the Devils front office cannot forget to monitor.
Oh, I'm calling for the chopping block. And who isn't by now? It just got worse as time went on...both tonight and during the entire season.
The Fate of the Devils: Whose hands are they in? Are they in the hands of the Florida Panthers, who have two games at hand at just one point behind? Well, yeah. In part, the Devils need the Panthers to lose more than they do the rest of the way. On the bright side for the Devils, the heavy travel is over. Tomorrow night, hope for the Columbus Blue Jackets to beat the Panthers in overtime. Now, the goal is staying in.
When the Devils play in Pittsburgh on Friday, they need to leave this performance out of their minds. It’s too late to let bad nights carry over, and they need to play with a fresh sense of purpose against the Penguins. Personally, I think they should go with Kinkaid to have the sharper, less rusty goalie in net. It likely gives them the best chance of winning.
Your Thoughts: How did you react to this game? Did you get angry? Or did you have an immense sense of calm dread set in like I did? Will fans or players be more recovered by Friday? Leave your thoughts below.
Thanks to everyone with us, whether you commented in the Gamethread or you were following on Twitter with @AAtJerseyBlog. Sorry the result wasn’t better for the late night. This is Chris - thank you for reading, and goodnight.