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Devils Collapse in Second Period, Blow Two Leads in 5-2 Loss to Flames

Jack Hughes came to play. Most of the defense did not.

NHL: NOV 07 Devils at Flames
Matt Tennyson in the dust.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

First Period: The Hischier line started the game with early zone time, but could not get a shot on after cycling the puck around the offensive zone. The Flames got their first good chance of the game when Sam Bennett played the puck across the slot with two other Flames around the net, but the puck was not directed towards Blackwood and the Devils were able to play it away.

Travis Zajac nearly connected with Jesper Boqvist for what would have been his first NHL goal. Zajac had Boqvist on a two-on-one, with the defender playing the pass on one knee. Zajac’s pass around the defenseman was too hard for Boqvist to handle, and the Devils got no shot out of it.

MacKenzie Blackwood started getting a few saves a bit past five minutes into the game. He made a tough save on a tipped shot followed by a quick pad save on a backhanded shot. Following his great game in Winnipeg, this was very encouraging.

Taylor Hall had his first good chance of the game with a hard wrist shot about six and a half minutes into the game, with Hischier crashing the net. Nico was unable to jump on the rebound.

MacKenzie Blackwood had to make a big save on a slap shot on the rush by Milan Lucic. Pavel Zacha was backchecking and prevented the Flames from getting on the rebound with a well-timed stick lift on Tobias Rieder. The Devils breakout was starting to look quite weak, with their passes being too far and too easy to interrupt by the Flames. Thus, the Flames were dominating shot attempts by halfway through the period.

Jack Hughes was doing well in the offensive zone during the game, holding his own along the boards. However, his work was for nothing as after he spun away from Noah Hanifin and made a pass to Nikita Gusev, Gusev tripped Tobias Rieder and took a penalty.

On the penalty kill, Blake Coleman and Travis Zajac nearly combined for an immediate two-on-one, but Coleman’s pass to Zajac was deflected. Coleman re-collected for a shot, but it was blocked away. After the second faceoff, the Flames cycled around the zone but Gaudreau’s pass to the slot was intercepted by Pavel Zacha and sent down the ice. Blake Coleman followed on the forecheck to kill more time. Noah Hanifin got the Flames’ first shot with a point shot that was blockered by MacKenzie Blackwood. The Devils were able to clear the zone a couple more times before the power play was killed at just one shot allowed.

Jack Hughes scored the first of the game on a wicked breakaway off a pass from Taylor Hall, who passed from the Devils’ defensive blueline to Hughes, who was at the other end of the neutral zone. Hughes slipped around his defenseman and used his speed to get in on David Rittich, who went down early. Hughes used that to his advantage as he pulled the puck to his forehand and put it into the net. 1-0, Devils. This was Jack Hughes’ first even strength goal.

Mark Jankowski took the Flames’ first penalty of the game with just over three minutes left in the period. He got two minutes for slashing as the Flames tried to enter the offensive zone.

With the Devils’ first unit on the ice, Taylor Hall got the first shot of the power play with another hard wrist shot from the circle. The Devils were unable to get a second shot before the puck slipped out of the zone, and cleared again on the re-entry. With the second wave on the ice, P.K. Subban made Rittich make a tough pad save. The Flames took the puck the other way and had a shorthanded attempt, but the Devils’ backchecking pressure helped prevent a goal.

In the final minute of the period, the fourth line tried to pressure the Flames, but Miles Wood’s pass to Wayne Simmonds was broken up. On the other end, Wayne Simmonds took a penalty for slashing. It was more of a hook, but nonetheless the Devils killed 15 seconds of the Flames’ power play with a clear before the period ended.

Second Period: With a minute and 45 seconds of power play to kill, the Devils got a clear by Andy Greene nearly a minute into the period after the Flames cycled around the offensive zone without a shot. Upon re-entry, Noah Hanifin rifled a shot off the post. Milan Lucic followed up with a shot from the high slot that Blackwood was able to make a great save on. With that, the penalty was killed. At even strength, Tobias Rieder broke from the Devils defense on the rush and Blackwood closed down his five hole to stop a goal. Derek Ryan followed up with a close shot on the next rush that Tennyson horribly misplayed, and Ryan’s backhand went top shelf. 1-1. Terrible defense on what could have been easily played away if Tennyson stayed in position.

Jack Hughes came to play tonight, though. Following another near-goal by the Flames, he created a two-on-one after jumping on a loose puck and speeding into the zone. He put the puck perfectly on Nikita Gusev’s stick on the other side of Rittich, who makes no mistakes when in that close. 2-1, Devils.

The Devils took their third penalty of the game as Nikita Gusev was sent off for hooking. It was his second penalty of the game and on the replay it looked like a weak call. The referees quickly evened that out with a tripping call as Blake Coleman was tripped by Mikael Backlund.

At four-on-four, the Flames were unable to get a zone entry on their first attempt and turned it over on the second. The Devils worked it the other way, but Taylor Hall’s shot went wide. The Flames then got some sustained zone time after a high shot by Hampus Lindholm. After cycling, Sean Monahan got a pass from behind the net and put it past Blackwood to make it 2-2. Taylor Hall made one too many moves by the blueline and the puck was worked to the back of the net where Monahan was wide open for a pass from.

On the abbreviated power play, the Devils were only able to gain the zone for a few seconds before turning the puck over for a two-on-one. Tobias Rieder’s pass was a little too far, and the shot went wide. The Flames were continually making the Devils pay for turnovers, and it was clear that they needed to tighten up.

Taylor Hall with about seven minutes left in the period took a penalty for high-sticking Mark Girodano in the offensive zone. On the fourth Flames power play, the Flames got two early shots that were blocked away. Coleman’s stick was broken from blocking a shot, but was able to kick the puck down the ice. On the following rush, Andy Greene dove down to break up a pass into Blackwood’s pad, who covered the puck. Later in the power play after another stoppage, the Devils were the victim of a terrible bounce as Andy Greene deflected a pass into the net with his stick. Backlund was credited with the goal to make it 3-2, Flames. Greene needed to play the puck on his forehand into the corner or the side boards, but the puck deflected off his backhand and through Blackwood’s five hole.

Following the go-ahead goal for the Flames, the Devils had trouble getting the puck out of their own end. Jack Hughes tried lifting the puck to Pavel Zacha, but he shot it too far and the Flames were able to easily play it back to their offensive zone. After Blackwood covered another shot, Nico Hischier was only able to get just into the Devils’ offensive zone before the Flames took it away.

Following a bad pass in the defensive zone, Johnny Gaudreau was all alone with MacKenzie Blackwood, who stretched out to close off the bottom of the net, and Gaudreau didn’t have enough of a handle on the puck to lift it and lost it before he could get a shot off. On the other end, the Devils won a faceoff and Blake Coleman was called for the Devils’ fifth penalty of the game. It was a weak, weak call of interference as he bumped into someone right off the faceoff. Regardless, the Devils needed to tighten their penalty-taking up.

The penalty was abbreviated, as there was about about a minute and 48 seconds left in the period. Blackwood was able to make a save on a good shot by Gaudreau and covered the puck without allowing a rebound. By then, the Flames’ power play was really going, and scored with just under 14 seconds in the period. Noah Hanifin had the puck at the blueline with a four-man screen in front of Blackwood. His shot deflected in. 4-2. The Devils would have a hell of a hill to climb in the last 20 minutes.

Even strength shots in the second period were 11-3, Flames. with the Devils only getting one on Rittich after the Gusev goal. They also had 15 scoring chances at even strength after only having five in the first period. In all situations, they were outshooting the Devils 26-13 through two periods, had nine high danger chances to the Devils’ three, and a 73.73 expected goals for percentage (xGF%). In the second period, the all-situational xGF differential was 1.58-0.21, Flames, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Do I blame some of this on whistle-happy officiating? Yes. But were the officials nearly as bad as the Devils’ breakout and turnover differential? Absolutely not - not even half as bad. And regardless of whether the call on Coleman was weak and bad or not, his penalties have continually been leading to goals against. He needs to be better.

Third Period: The third period started poorly at best. The Flames had sustained zone time for well over a minute, and the Flames nearly scored a fifth goal before Pavel Zacha made a perfect swipe at the puck (read: not a backhand deflection) at a cross-crease pass that would have been a tap-in if he had not been covering for his defensemen.

After the good defensive play, Taylor Hall played a give and go with Nikita Gusev around multiple Flames defensemen, and nearly scored, but Rittich was able to make the stop. Barely more than a minute later, P.K. Subban turned the puck over in the neutral zone and drifted off to the boards, allowing Mikael Backlund to split between him and Damon Severson, and Blackwood had to react quickly to stop and squeeze the puck between his pads.

Jesper Boqvist had a great offensive zone shift about six minutes into the period, taking the puck away close to the net and then rocking Mark Giordano right in front of Rittich to free up the puck once again. While his line didn’t get a shot off, it definitely wasn’t his fault.

The Devils took their sixth minor penalty of the game just past seven minutes into the period as Jack Hughes high sticked Michael Tkachuk behind the Devils’ net. He was knocked down by Tkachuk and did not keep his stick in control. With the Flames power play two-for-five with one of those power plays being 20 seconds long, this was a huge kill. Johnny Gaudreau nearly turned it over right in front of Rittich, but Blake Coleman inexplicably could not jump on the puck right next to him and the Flames were able to quickly move down the ice and start their attack on Blackwood. He made multiple saves before the Devils were able to clear the puck for a few seconds before allowing another zone entry. However, they were not able to get a shot before Greene and Severson got a second and third clear. Jack Hughes was then out of the penalty box, and the Devils forecheck ramped up with half a period to tie the game.

Taylor Hall had three shots on a single shift before the Devils turned the puck over and allowed a Johnny Gaudreau breakaway. He pulled the puck to his backhand and lifted it over Blackwood’s pad. Matt Tennyson, flat-footed, showed how terrible a game he was playing once more - only offering a turn and slash attempt to stop Gaudreau.

After the Devils got away with a non-called hooking penalty on Damon Severson, Mikael Backlund answered with a cross-check on Nikita Gusev, sending the Devils to the power play. It remained to be seen if the Devils had enough fight in them to be sparked by the penalty, but either way that’s a bad move for Backlund to make.

Travis Hamonic got an early clear in the power play, making the Devils have to re-enter. Jack Hughes came speeding in for a one-timer, but Rittich made the stop. On the third attempt by the first wave, the Devils nearly allowed another breakaway, but Sami Vatanen high-sticked a flipped puck out of the air to prevent it. At least he was trying. The second wave was totally hapless, with Will Butcher being unable to hand a straight pass to him from Subban (he’s been doing that a lot), and the Flames got clears before the penalty expired.

The Flames started dominating once again in the minutes following the power play. MacKenzie Blackwood just kept having to stand on his head as the Devils defense was too relaxed in their own zone to fight off the fast Calgary attack.

With half the team not trying, and no visible emotion from the Devils bench, time just wound down as slowly as possible. With mostly Flames attack while the Devils were down three, they had given up more shots against than any other game of the season. Jesper Boqvist very much arguably got boarded by Sam Bennett, but there was no call and no response. Kevin Rooney had some words with Bennett after the play was blown dead, but that was it. And for such a whistle-happy game on stick penalties, they needed to call that. But they didn’t.

As play reached the last minute, Jesper Boqvist made a good play on a puck in the corner to Damon Severson, who fired into Rittich’s glove. That was the last shot on goal of the game, and the final score was 5-2, with the shots 38-23, Flames.

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

The Opposition Opinion: Check out Matchsticks and Gasoline for the Flames’ side of recapping later.

Classic Second Period Collapse: In a second period reminiscent of the worst of the Devils’ rebuild, they simply got destroyed by a team that knows how to attack when down. The Devils were doubled by Calgary in both scoring chances (29-14) and high-danger ones (13-5) at even strength on the game - after being tied 5-5 and up 3-2 in those categories after the first period. In a game where the Flames also spent so much time on the power play, that is untenable - especially when the Devils only had one really good kill in the first period. After that, they were pretty bad.

Poor Blackwood: According to Natural Stat Trick, there were 13 high danger shots on MacKenzie Blackwood tonight. He stopped 10 of them, including eight of 10 at five-on-five. All of his high danger goals allowed were at even strength, and the power play goals allowed were on a four-man screened shot from the point that was deflected, and an own-goal by Andy Greene.

How do you even begin to fix that? Well...

A Terrible Game (Again) For Butcher and Tennyson: These two need to be broken up. Whether it be Will Butcher’s unexplained current inability to handle passes or Matt Tennyson’s penchant for putting himself out of position on rushes, this pairing cannot survive against good competition. It just cannot. In 10:33 together tonight, they had a 36.00 Corsi for percentage, and while Tennyson was able to block four of those attempts against, he was but a pylon on the Gaudreau goal, and Butcher is too slow to get over to cover for someone so often out of position. Damon Severson also could not get over to make up for Tennyson skating too far up and allowing Derek Ryan to get behind him - as he was in perfect position and the two could have just combined to take Ryan off the puck if Tennyson kept his position rather than get spun out.

Maybe Tennyson needs a game off.

The Captain Correctly Identifies Some Problems: Here was Captain Andy Greene after the game:

A lot of people will probably be mad at Andy Greene for his own goal tonight. Yet, he and Sami Vatanen were still head and shoulders above the rest of the defensive corps tonight. They didn’t give up, and they didn’t allow a single high-danger scoring chance, and they were not on the ice for any of the even strength goals against. They were the only defensemen with CF and xGF percentages above 50, and they played in great position on rushes. They only allowed four even strength shots while on the ice; to nine, 12, 13, and 14 with Tennyson, Severson, Subban, and Butcher, respectively. This loss is not on the best defensive pairing on the team.

And speaking of his playing north-south, not east-west comment...

P.K. Subban, Don’t Do That. Ever.: Damon Severson had a tough time with his partners going way out of position tonight. Early in the third period, Subban had a neutral zone turnover followed by him playing what I assume he thought would be a dump around the boards, but Mikael Backlund saw him drift off and instead attacked at full speed, and very nearly scored. My internal screaming reached record highs for this season at that point of this game - even more than the goals against.

It’s one thing when Subban makes a pinch and gets burned - because he can actually turn play around doing those things, and create goals. Giving the other team the middle of the ice to skate down on the rush? Absolutely terrible.

Breakouts: Not only were the offensive zone times weak and unsustained, the breakouts were even worse tonight. The Devils continually turned over the puck, stretching passes to teammates alone among several Flames players, and it is easy to see why this won’t work. This helped create more Flames rushes, as the Flames were able to get the jump on bad plays, putting the Devils on their heels.

The Hughes Line: It wasn’t all bad. Mostly, the second line wasn’t a negative, in terms of the way their play is trending. They were out-performed in terms of xGF% - all but three Devils (Greene, Vatanen, Simmonds) were. But, all three players on the line meshed well together tonight. Therefore, I was very disappointed in them being broken up in the third period. In just five minutes together, they broke even in possession after being very bad together previously. They outshot the Flames three to two, and scored a goal. The goal against really wasn’t their fault, as it was the play where Tennyson gave up his position to try to body Derek Ryan and got spun around on the outside, whereas if he had just stayed back Damon Severson could have come over and played the puck away.

So, while I can’t blame Hynes for juggling the lines in the third, it wasn’t really an improvement, and the first two lines should have stayed the same.

Your Thoughts: I’m sure everyone is rightfully pissed - so here we are. What did you think about tonight’s game? Who did you think did the worst? Who wasn’t so terrible? Do you think that this game was salvageable? When did you give up on it? When did you think the players did? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Whether you followed along in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for sticking around through an eyesore. This is Chris - goodnight.