Bad Passing, Decisions Lead to Loss

I don't know why the Gamethread didn't actually go up earlier; but I suppose it doesn't matter as the Devils didn't play like it was worth commenting well on.  They lost to the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 tonight, marking their third home loss in their last five home games. Gulitti says it was another bad home performance and I couldn't agree more.

 

It wasn't the case that the Devils didn't wake up for the game. The first period was fine. But the second period, oh that was a brutal period.  The Devils took too many dumb hooking calls (Seriously, they've been calling those hooks since the lockout. When will players learn that!?), and the Kings - unlike Atlanta - made them pay on the power play.  Jarrett Stoll hit a bomb of a slapshot that Scott Clemmensen had no chance on due to a fine and uncleared screen in front.  Not only did this give LA the first goal of the game, but it must have done something to the Devils.  From then on, the passing by the Devils just degraded to becoming a myriad of bouncing pucks, misdirected movements, and poor trapping of the puck in receiving the pass.  I couldn't tell if they weren't trying hard enough or if they were trying too hard.

Momentum is key in hockey, and the Kings proved it.   A little more than two minutes later, Patrick O'Sullivan took a shot from the left circle that was perfectly deflected in by a breaking Anze Kopitar.  No one could have stopped that shot short of a SCORE-O wall. The game was 2-0 LA and the Devils were like a car stuck in a deep mud puddle, hitting the accelerator hard to try and manuever out of it - only to find themselves stuck in further.

The capping of the period was a penalty shot.  The fans, sick of the refs for some of the calls made in the game, were livid.  The NHL.com recap helpfully describes why the call was made:

The Kings broke the game open with three goals in the second, capped by O'Sullivan's penalty shot at 14:37. O'Sullivan was awarded the shot when Devils defenseman Mike Mottau gloved a loose puck in the New Jersey crease.

Of all of the bad decisions made by New Jersey with the puck tonight, this one by Mottau definitely hurt the most, that's for sure. O'Sullivan went in, cooly and calmly knocked it off the post and in and it's 3-0 LA with an angry Brent Sutter and a baffled Devils team.  Poor Scott Clemmensen, he really didn't have much of a chance on the first two goals and penalty shots are always a toss-up.  He really didn't have a bad game.  Alas, the second period ended with boos from the crowd and why not?  It was a performance worthy of booing, further disappointing when you consider the first period wasn't so bad when they had a goal denied twice - once by the video review and one earlier when Jonathon Quick robbed a Devil of a goal off a rebound.

The third period was a mish-mash of the Devils trying to stage a comeback and the fans booing the refs mercilessly for not calling obvious interference, holding, and tripping calls.  Zach Parise, in particular, was mugged so many times on the attack, it was unbelievable.  But the root cause of the loss isn't with the refs.  It's with the passing and decision making that failed.  Cross-ice passes sailing over sticks.  Deciding to force shots through defenders in desparation, only to be blocked or miss the net entirely.   Players sending passes to the slot only for the puck to be taken by a King.  Awful stuff.

The Devils pulled one back when Dainius Zubrus got fortunate on a try as a puck sailed over Quick and in.  But they couldn't build on it thanks to making poor decisions with the puck and even poorer passes.  If you can't distribute the puck, you can't maintain it.  And if you can't maintain possession, how can any team score - much less score two to complete a comeback.

Credit the Kings, though.  They didn't waver under the pressure and worked hard.  How they controlled the second period and responded to the Devils' mistakes was excellent.  The result is fair for them.  As for the Devils, they need to start getting some of these wins at home.  I will say this, while the fans were disappointed after the game, most of them had this thought process.  The Devils didn't do well, so they should be fired up to rebound from that loss. And it just so happens the next game is against Our Hated Rivals, the New York Rangers.  

Beating the Rangers will definitely go a long way to forgive this kind of a loss. and to turn around the home performances as of late. Let's get it done, Devils.

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