The Devils lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0 tonight in a game where the Devils essentially made two errors. The first is something the team definitely does control to a point and, according to Gulitti, immediately recognize. They didn't finish the myriad of scoring chances they put up tonight. They put plenty of rubber on Fleury, a little over a margin of 2:1 in terms of shots (37-18). The Devils' on defense were fantastic in holding Sidney Crosby to nothing and Evgeni Malkin to two shots. The only mistake Scott Clemmensen made was not getting all of Ruslan Fedotenko's one-timer in the second period. Lots of credit should go to Marc-Andre Fleury for making some fantastic stops. He did well. Credit should go to the Penguins' defenders for locking up - to the point of holding, hooking, and other illicit plays - Devils trying to pounce on a rebound.
However, that doesn't excuse that the Devils had some great chances that they couldn't bury. They didn't outmuscle Pens to those aforementioned rebounds enough. The deflections tended to go wide. The one-timers and cross-ice feeds tended to go wide. Shots from the point, accompanied with the crowd's call to "SHOOOOOOT", tended to hit a Penguin or a Devil rather than Fleury. Jamie Langenbrunner, in particular, had several chances to score himself and all of them went awry. This was very frustating, to watch the Devils to get so close, to outplay Pittsburgh Sutter's post-game comment cuts right to the heart of the matters:
"I know their goalie played well, but that's six, seven periods we haven't scored a goal," Sutter said. "You have to bury your chances. We had opportunities. We had quality scoring chances tonight. We never capitalized on them and that's the difference in the game."
The second mistake the Devils made had nothing to do with the Devils themselves. The refereeing in this game was atrocious. Some of the calls against New Jersey were awful. An "interference" penalty on Paul Martin was called after a Penguin decided to take an easy fall on offense. Langenbrunner got tagged with a high stick that I saw right in front of me and I'm not even sure it even touched the Penguin. And I'm not even sure where Brian Gionta's tripping call after a scrum on a power play. Maybe with replay some of these were legit; but the refs really made a point of it to make the game revolve around them. And the large crowd at The Rock made a point of it to let them know how they feel about the refs. Excellent job by the Devils' penalty killers who made a point of it to succeed in spite of them.
And there was this disallowed goal that occurred right before the Gionta call. From Gulitti, Sutter says it wasn't a goal and Clarkson's words are showing compliance with the call. IPB's diary of the game says it wasn't a goal. For all I know, they're right. It's just that over 16,000 saw a black disk go over a thick red line on a white ice surface from an overhead view of the goal line, zoomed in on the important part of the goal line, on a giant HD screen displayed to all sides of the arena. Maybe it didn't fully go over the line and we were all wrong after all. After all, we don't have sophisticated technology like the wizards in the Toronto warroom. We just know what we saw and so we reacted with many colorful words (which I will not repeat here and neither will you) and booing. Again, I repeat, we could have been wrong. But it was maddening all the same and you can't fault any of us for that. Combining this with the reffing, and the general sentiment from Devils fans after the game was infuriation. Fair or not, it felt like the Devils were facing the Penguins and the NHL officials. This was an infuriating game.
Of course, my gripes about the video review and the reffing are meaningless because of the first mistake I mentioned. If the Devils had buried some of these scoring chances as mentioned by Langenbrunner, Zajac, et al; then the second mistake this wouldn't be an issue. It would just be a big annoyance in a game where the Devils were clearly the better team. Alas, they were but not on the only place where it matters: the scoreboard. And unfortunately, we have to move on. The Rangers are tomorrow night and that's a big game if only because of who they are. I want a win over them at least and I know the Devils definitely do before they hit the road next week.
UPDATE: I concede. 2:57-3:10ish: