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Lapses and Turnovers Down the Devils in 2-3 Loss to Kings

The Devils coughed up another lead today. Will they ever learn to hold onto one?

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at New Jersey Devils
Not a great game.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

The Hischier line had a bad time early in the game, as they were caught in the defensive zone for around a full minute by the Los Angeles Kings. Jimmy Vesey got banged up from blocking a shot, and Graves and Subban were too slow to make plays on the puck around the net. Gillies was beat once, but the shot went off the crossbar.

The Devils survived. Yegor Sharangovich came back and ripped a shot that was knocked down by Cal Petersen. After the Kings pushed the Devils back a few zones, Damon Severson found Jesper Bratt at the far-end blue line with a great pass. Bratt went to the forehand and scored! 1-0, Devils.

Michael McLeod and Dustin Brown both went to the box nearly five minutes into the game. McLeod was called for crosschecking, and Brown was called for embellishment. McLeod knocked Brown down in the neutral zone by the benches.

Jack Hughes raced around the offensive zone and dropped the puck behind him for Damon Severson. He dropped it right to Alex Iafallo, who was defended by Pavel Zacha, who was racing back to prevent a breakaway. Iafallo rang his shot off the iron and in. 1-1. Zacha was coming from the other side of the ice, but would have needed to prevent the shot entirely to stop Iafallo from scoring.

Jack Hughes was knocked to the ice by Carl Gundstrom with around twelve minutes to play, and Hughes went hard into the boards with his shoulder. Jesper Bratt came into the play and threw a hit on Gundstrom before dropping the gloves. Both players wrestled to the ice as play was blown dead. Bratt and Gundstrom were called for roughing, and the Devils got the extra two minutes on the play - which was served by Pavel Zacha. However. Dustin Brown was called for tripping two seconds into the Kings’ power play.

The Kings owned the best of the opportunities for the next few minutes. They fired away at Gillies’ net at four-on-four, but barely missed the net on a rebound opportunity. Pavel Zacha got a stretch pass out of the box as the man serving the extra two, but he was slowed down by Mikey Anderson and Zacha could not get a shot off.

Carl Grunstrom took a two minute minor for slashing the stick out of Tomas Tatar’s hands, and the Devils went to the power play with 3:27 to play. On the rush, Nico dropped the puck to Jesper Bratt, who went cross-zone to Nathan Bastian. The puck got behind Petersen, but the Kings cleared it from the blue paint. The Devils continued. On a beautiful passing play, Jack Hughes slid the puck across for Jesper Bratt to shoot a one-timer into the open net! 2-1, Devils with 2:25 to play in the period.

Second Period

Jack Hughes nearly scored on a rebound from Yegor Sharangovich, but backhanded the puck behind Petersen and through the crease with an open net to shoot at. Aside from this play, the opening three or so minutes of the second period were rather slow and uneventful. There were several stoppages, and the Devils only managed long-range attempts aside from the chance for Sharangovich and Hughes.

Jonas Siegenthaler had a chance to shoot for a redirection several minutes later, but the shot was deflected down by Kopitar’s stick and bounded wide of the net after another deflection. After an icing, Tomas Tatar froze in the corner and turned back to his forehand, getting a pass to the low slot for Nico Hischier. Hischier had two Kings on him, and his shot was deflected out of play.

Viktor Arvidsson tied the game with four minutes to play in the period. Alex Iafallo took the puck away from Jack Hughes and passed around Sharangovich to Arvidsson. Arvidsson went top corner on Gillies, and the Devils’ defensive work in such a slow period was done away by a bad turnover in the middle of a poorly-timed change by Ryan Graves.

The Devils seemed slower for a bit after the goal against. However, they would have a chance to take the lead again late in the period. Petersen played the puck from behind his net to Yegor Sharangovich on the wall, and Sharangovich centered the puck for a redirection attempt that just went wide from Jack Hughes. This was one of the moments I’d look at in a game where the Devils end up losing - the inability to make the other team pay.

Third Period

Quinton Byfield, who had a fractured ankle earlier this season, took a point shot from one of his teammates two and a half minutes in and hobbled off the ice. Fortunately, it hit him higher in the leg - so it wouldn’t be a re-injury. 3:06 into the period, Janne Kuokkanen took a minor penalty for delay of game by flipping the puck over the glass. Nico Hischier and Jimmy Vesey took to the ice for the kill, and Gillies froze an early point shot by Drew Doughty.

The Kings set up in their offensive zone, but did not shoot very often. Gillies made saves on Kopitar and Kempe before Jimmy Vesey cleared at the start of the second minute. Sharangovich and Hischier took to the ice afterward, and Gillies froze the puck again with 37 seconds to kill. Hischier lost the draw, but the Devils got a couple clears as the penalty was killed.

Pavel Zacha wound the puck from behind Gillies’ net to Andreas Johnsson to try to escape the defensive zone after a dangerous chance for Lazotte. Johnsson was taken down from behind as he tried to play the puck from the boards, and Gillies had to freeze another shot.

Jesper Bratt went coast-to-coast with 11 minutes to play, zipping through the hole up the middle that he created with his neutral zone shimmying. His wrist shot was turned aside by Petersen’s glove. Tomas Tatar had a golden opportunity with an open net, off a shot from Hischier that rebounded right to him. He could not get the shot on goal.

Carl Grundstrom got the puck in the high slot after it came out frm the corner on a weak pass from Dustin Brown. Jack Hughes was on Gundstrom and skated to the point instead, allowing him to take a wide open shot that beat Gillies. 3-2, Kings.

Dawson Mercer found Pavel Zacha across the zone as the Devils were holding the zone, and Zacha drove the net for a backhand shot. He was unable to get much on it, and Petersen closed the angle down well.

Colton White shot a puck from the point that went off the crossbar after being deflected, and it went high over the net. Nico Hischier has a chance down low that was saved. On the next shift, Dawson Mercer was wide open in the high slot and tried to thread the needle at the side of the net for Zacha, but the Kings broke up the pass.

The Devils struggled to get another shot on net for awhile. The Kings had possession for a few shifts in a row before Jack Hughes gained the offensive zone for the Devils. Gillies went to the bench with under two minutes to play. Jesper Bratt turned and shot from the circle but it went just wide. Bratt took another shot that went off the glass. Hughes recollected from the defensive end with under 30 seconds to play, and the Devils took a penalty for too many men with 21.4 seconds to play.

With the Devils in possession, Michael McLeod dumped in from the blueline despite Nico Hsichier and Jack Hughes being on the ice. The Kings cleared the puck from their zone and won 3-2.

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 Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: Jewels From the Crown will have a recap.

Gillies? Fine.

Jon Gillies had an alright game tonight. I was not really a fan of the goal he gave up to Viktor Arvidsson, as Gillies seemed to take a poor angle, giving Arvidsson the whole far-side to shoot at. But Gillies is not the reason the Devils lost tonight. He stopped 34 of 37 shots on an expected goals against of 3.07. Whatever bad angle he took on that goal, it evened out. Gillies played a good game, and kept the Devils right in it.

Bratt? Great, as usual.

Jesper Bratt was electric again tonight, and he was the only player on his line that seemed to be consistently on top of his game tonight. Jack Hughes had the assist to him on the power play, which was a thing of beauty - but Hughes made costly turnovers and played poor defense tonight. This line was carried by Jesper Bratt.

As he cut down the middle of the ice, making three or four Kings look like fools in the process, I thought he was going to score a hat trick. He was alright at six-on-five. I liked his quick turnaround shot that went just wide, but I did not appreciate the Devils sitting back high in the zone to set up shots from the circle for him. I would have rather seen Bratt handle the puck along the wall so he could make the best play from his stick.

Discipline? Energy?

I was not particularly angry when the Devils took their too many men penalty. A pass was just made way behind Zacha, who had to sprawl out to keep the puck moving ahead as the Kings threatened to score on the empty net. Then play was blown dead for too many men. I was already expecting the loss, and I was already annoyed by the Devils’ lack of compete for too much of the last two periods. However, it was an unacceptable lapse in a late-game situation. These penalties have been a problem with the Devils this season.

I think Ruff should have to answer more for why this team did not have energy tonight. Yes, it was the back end of a back-to-back. The Devils, however, did not need to travel, are in the midst of a homestand, and have barely played in the last couple weeks. Losing their legs is not good enough of an excuse - it clearly does not slow down Jesper Bratt.

Even the game winning goal against? Totally avoidable. The Devils should have at least one, maybe two points tonight.

What exactly is Ryan Graves trying to accomplish here? P.K. Subban got stuck on the side of the net. What is he doing? What is Jack Hughes doing?

When half of your players are not where they are supposed to be, goals against are not too surprising. Hughes backs away instead of going to the puck. Graves and Subban are in no-man’s land. This is shockingly bad defensive zone coverage by the New Jersey Devils, and look no further for the reason they lost.

Hopefully the Devils have enough “energy” to last a full 60 minutes on Tuesday when they play the Stars. And maybe Ruff, Nasreddine, and Fitzgerald need to work on holding down leads.

Subban's Interview

At the time I originally posted this recap, P.K Subban's post-game interview had not been uploaded by the Devils. It was posted a little bit after 11:00 EST.

As you may know, P.K.'s younger brother, Jordan, was subjected to a racist taunt by Jacob Panetta in an ECHL game. After the game tonight, P.K. was asked a few questions by the media about his response to the incident. I highly recommend listening to Subban's full remarks on the NHL website.

I don't think I need to editorialize, as Subban speaks for himself. I fully endorse his statements in the post-game interview. I also think this needed to be included in the game recap because it was a personal matter for P.K. Subban, and he deserves to be heard.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of tonight’s game? How did you feel about the Hischier line with Tatar and Vesey? What did you think of the defensive pairings tonight? How about Jon Gillies’ performance? What do you think Lindy Ruff is saying to his team in the intermissions? Do the Devils have a conditioning issue? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading. Whether you followed in the gamethread or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.

Article updated at 11:45 for adding section on Subban post-game interview.