If you thought the Devils would turn around their slow start by the tenth game of the season, you were wrong. If you thought the Devils would play sound hockey to start their longest road trip of the season, you were wrong. If you thought the Devils would win tonight against a team in a similar situation to begin the season, you were wrong.
Don't worry. I was wrong too.
The New Jersey Devils continued their path with a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks at the HP Pavilion. This is the third straight loss by the Devils; the second straight loss on their six game road trip (first game of five in the Western Conference). This is the second worst ten game start to a season in team history (2-7-1 5 pts). The San Jose Sharks controlled most of the game, dominated the stat lines, and got a well deserved first win at home. The Sharks first line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley were just incredible. They scored each of the 5 goals (Hat Trick by Thornton), helped on 13 assists, and were a combined (+12) plus/minus.
A quick look at the Event Summary can just show you who the better team was tonight. The Devils were outshot 29-39 (21-30 after the 2nd period). They were outhit (18-23), and went 35% on face-offs (19 for 35). This game was pretty physical at times at had a physical start. The first ten minutes of the game were very even. Teams were trading shots, and Marty was looking solid. Jason Arnott and Ilya Kovalchuk had a nice play to set up Matt Taormina with a shot on the powerplay (a slash by Scott Nichol). David Clarkson and Jamie Langenbrunner had a nice give a go a little while later. These were good chances, and give credit to Sharks goalie Antero Nittymaki. The Devils had some neutral zone trouble. Passing still seems to be a fundamental problem for the Devils. Over time tonight..this among other things got worse.
I'm going to say this again: The Sharks first line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley were just incredible. Thornton struck first about half-way threw the first period. Heatley kept the puck in on a potential clear by the Devils, made a quick pass to the Sharks' captain, who was in the middle of the left circle and fired a wrist shot. A later replay showed it hit the stick of Matt Taormina, giving Martin Broduer and the Devils the 1-0 deficit. Check out Fear The Fin for their postgame recap.
A blink of an eye later (about a minute later), the same line scores again putting the Devils into a quick 2-0 hole. Thornton and Heatley were controlling the boards and once the puck reached behind the net, Marleau makes a quick wraparound for an easy goal. Marty had no idea where the puck was. The sad thing was neither did his defense.
After another failed powerplay attempt by New Jersey later in the first, which did include a nice 360 move by Josefson that set up a great chance for Dainus Zubrus in front of the net, the Sharks got their first powerplay of the game. Henrik Tallinder was called for a hooking. The Sharks PP was already playing well into this game. They were able to pile on 7 shots on goal, and were in the zone for relatively the whole 2 minutes. I know the game was 2-0 at this point, but the Devils were still in this game (thanks to time).
After this powerplay by the Sharks..I didn't feel this anymore. This was an early dagger. Shortly after (and with about a minute to go in the period), the Sharks yet again scored. Thornton and Brodeur got tied up in front of the net (a possible interference call but I digress), and Marleau shot the puck from the sharp angle that Thornton ultimately deflected in. There was certainly a defensive lapse here. I believe it was Matt Corrente who went to contest Marleau, leaving a couple Sharks and Tallinder alone in front of the net. By the time Arnott came to backcheck, the puck was already in the net. Don't even ask me where the other Devils were. Maybe they were changing?
After the first period, it was 3-0 San Jose, shots were 11-17 San Jose. The Devils were getting outhit, outshot, and losing a third of the face-offs. Credit Coach John MacLean who was trying anything to stop the Sharks first line. He put a number of different lines against them. That's most likely why 13 players were minus-1 (Parise was minus-2) at this point.
I do need to give some credit to MacLean. He tried to stop that top line. He even mixed up the lines after the first intermission. He put Kovalchuk with Rod Pelley and Dainius Zubrus. He also put Parise with Clarkson and Zajac. He made adjustments, which is what we ask for when adjustments are needed. His players needed to step up.
The beginning of the 2nd period started like the first. An evenly matched game for a period of time. David Clarkson scored his first goal of the season on a bizarre play. Matthew Corrente dumped the puck into the zone, and the puck made a wild bounce right to Clarkson. Nittymaki was behind the net playing the puck. Clarkson buried the empty netter. After some good pressure by New Jersey, they drew a penalty. That powerplay attempt was interrupted by a bench minor..too many men on the ice. Tell me.. how do you get a too many men on the ice penalty during a powerplay?
Jacob Josefson did have a great chance coming out of the box (he served the bench minor) on a breakaway. Instead of going to the net, he took the long shot. I believe Parise also did this earlier in the game. If these players have room, they should use it. Perhaps these two were too anxious in trying to score and let go too early.
Thornton scored later (on a similar play to Clarkson's goal) that compiled his hat trick and the delay to clean up a bunch of hats (What do they do with those by the way?) Marty tried to clear the puck behind the goal, but the tricky boards in the Shark Tank said otherwise. Heatley made the pass to Thornton for the hatty.
The Devils went 1 for 5 on the powerplay tonight, which now stands at 9.1% for the season. Andy Greene scored a meaningless goal on the man-advantage. Zach Parise brought the puck into the slot from the corner, and with a little chaos up front, Greene comes in from the point and scores on the loose puck. It was a nice job in creating some opportunities and ultimately scoring a goal, but it was with just over 5 minutes left in the game.
I'm angry, I'm tired, and I'm just frustrated. I will fix up the recap in the morning with an embedded video and some final stats. For now though, talk about last night's loss. Thanks for reading.
Here's the game highlights from NHL.com: