New Jersey Devils Burnt Twice in Third Period in 3-1 Loss to Washington Capitals

When this happened, I immediately thought "The Devils aren't coming back from this." Also: Johansson (#90) wasn't covered on this sequence of events. Ugh. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

While I did say I would be pleased if the New Jersey Devils would split their home-and-home against the Washington Capitals, I am disappointed with how tonight's game turned out.

The Devils were the stronger of the two teams in the first period.  They had more shots on net even with the Capitals picking up 3 cheap ones late in the period. They went up 1-0 thanks to Adam Larsson hammering a shot from the left circle past Tomas Vokoun.  Most of all, they had better puck movement.  The Capitals' passes into and within the neutral zone were horrid, they took many more icings than they really preferred, and the Devils pounced on nearly every loose puck.   The Caps didn't look good at all and the Devils were making them pay.

The second period featured some fight back from the Caps.  It also featured 3 power plays for the Caps, so the Devils had to spend quite a bit of the middle frame defending.  The Devils did manage to get 10 more shots on Vokoun and David Clarkson agonizingly hit the post on a shot that beat the goaltender.  The Caps were still stymied by a combination of the Devils defense fighting and winning loose pucks, Martin Brodeur making calm saves, and bounces not going their way.  The Caps eventually did get one favorable bounce, when Dennis Wideman found Ovechkin at the crease on a pass. The puck actually went past Anton Volchenkov, hit Ovechkin in the skates, and then bounced out for an easy tap-in on Brodeur's flank.  It was 1-1, and the Devils head into the third period with a power play.

Then it happened.  The Devils managed to fail miserably again with the man advantage in giving up a shorthanded goal.  Jason Chimera won a puck from Elias, flew past Clarkson who was coming off for a change, got around Larsson, and beat Brodeur while he was going laterally.  It was 2-1 and that turned out to be the game.  Three Devils skaters got burnt, the goalie got beat, and the Devils were down.  Eight minutes later, the Devils would be burnt again.  They got sloppy in their own end of the rink.  Nick Palmieri and Andy Greene misplayed a puck and so instead of a clearance or possession, it ends up on Karl Alzner's stick at the blueline.  He fires a shot, it hits a body in traffic, and Marcus Johansson gets it on his backhand on Brodeur's flank.  Brodeur dives, but the shot beats him.  3-1 and the Devils were doomed at that point.

Oh, the Devils did try to get back in it.  After the Chimera goal, the Devils worked to put 6 shots on net.  After the Johansson goal, the Devils really bore down and pounded Vokoun with traffic in front and 9 more shots on net.  The Devils even pulled Brodeur during a late power play in the hopes a 6-on-4 would get something going.   Yet, Vokoun's resolve was solid, the Caps defense actually managed to get in the way of the Devils' attack, and the Devils seemingly tried to do the same thing while expecting different results. 

It wasn't like the Caps suddenly came to life in the second period (shots were 10-10) or that the Devils took the third period completely off.  It wasn't like the Devils were perfect in the first period or in the second period prior to the goal.  They got burnt in two situations thanks in part to their own errors, and the Capitals absolutely made them pay on both of them.  That's how they lost and it's further evidence that an opponent like Washington commands a full 60 minute effort.

I have a few more thoughts on tonight's game after the jump.  For the opposition's point of view, J.P. has this recap over at Japers' Rink.  By the way, Matt Evans will take care of your preview needs for tomorrow's game.

The Stats:  The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Time on Ice Shift Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Ice Time Charts | The Time on Ice Corsi Charts

The Highlights:  Do you want to get angry? The two goals the Devils allowed in the third period will get you angry.  Do you want to see the rest of the highlights in this game too? Then this video from NHL.com has it all.

I Hate This Power Play:   The Devils had 5 power play opportunities tonight.  All of them were 5-on-4 situations. All of them were unabbreviated. The Devils had played 10 minutes, or one-sixth, of tonight's game with a man advantage.  They got 4 shots on net.  That's horrible.  The Devils penalty killers got 3 shots on net during their 8 minutes of action. The Devils' penalty kill, as in the units that are down a man on the ice, had tested Vokoun nearly as much as the units that are up a man on the ice.   What's more: the Devils power play was a -1 tonight.

I have a feeling I'm going to be writing an in-depth post about the power play sometime next week.  I'm going to have to come up with a little more than just the coaches are fools and the skaters get dumb on man-advantage situations.   Here's what I got so far based on watching 5 failing power plays this evening.

The "Jimmies and Joes" part is straight forward.  The Devils may have the players on paper to form a half-way decent power play, but they change what they normally do for some reason.  It'd be one thing to just set-up shots, but guys like Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, etc. just pass up shooting lanes for something better.  The players need to get out of this mindset, the perfect really is the enemy of the good - especially when you're down on the scoreboard.   Moreover, they need to be faster. They're not going to find seams in the other team's defense if they're going to look for a one timer, spend 3-5 seconds doing so, and make the pass only for the receiver to sit on the puck for one reason or another.  The shot doesn't have to be a one-timer, but the puck movement has to be faster.  Lastly, it would be great if their decision making was good.  Such as Elias not forcing a puck into a defending Cap like Jason Chimera. Such as Clarkson not going to the bench while, say, Chimera has the puck and carrying it up through where he's coming off.  Such as Larsson not taking a more aggressive approach, though I may be nitpicky since Chimera was flying by then.  You see my point.

Then there's the "Xs and Os" part of the equation.  I'm assuming Adam Oates is still in charge of the power play to some degree.  If I'm right, then I want him held accountable.  If I'm wrong, I want names so I can demand accountability.   Why in the world was Patrik Elias still on the point? Why are the players reacting so slowly?  Why were these units built around Ilya Kovalchuk, and after four games, why can't there be some changes in personnel or style in absence of Kovalchuk?  The Devils' power play has exactly one weapon - a one-timer from Kovalchuk - and without that, they're just throwing crap at a wall.  

The sad thing is that the Caps penalty killers haven't had a great season so far. They've been leaky when it comes to shots against in 4-on-5 situations.  Leave it to the Devils power play to make them look fantastic.  After all, New Jersey has a 5-on-4 shots for per 60 rate of 41.5 (fifth lowest in the league, likely to be lower after tonight) and a 5-on-4 goal differential now at +1.  It could have really helped the Devils tonight, instead it did more harm than good. I hate the power play. 

I Love the Penalty Kill:  The Devils took four penalties, two of which were questionable.  Peter DeBoer thought the first two were iffy according to this post-game tweet by Tom Gulitti. I would disagree on the first one, Cam Janssen was too rough on his hit; though I thought Sykora was contacted into Vokoun.   I felt Fayne's interference call was iffy since a linesman got in the way and had Fayne not hit him, he wouldn't have had the puck anyway.    I could be mistaken, though, I'm just going off what I saw from my seat.

It didn't matter since the Devils killed off all 8 minutes of being down a man with aplomb.  The Devils were just aggressive enough against the Caps' power play units to disrupt passes and force them to battle for pucks.  The Capitals only got 5 shots on net while the Devils managed to get three against them.   Brodeur had no problem with those five, which speaks to how well the Devils kept the Caps at bay.  Since the Capitals power play is strong, killing off all four power plays against the Devils was huge.  Cheers to the PK units.

The Return of Vladimir Zharkov: Vladimir Zharkov is back in the line up and on his third shift of the season, he drew a penalty when he was boarded by Mike Knuble.    Zharkov got limited minutes on the fourth line as he only got 4:48 of ice time.  He didn't get any shots on net, but he helped his guys on the ice get a little offense and finished a +4 in Corsi.   Not bad for a sub-five-minute night.

Third Line Resurgence:  When it came to possession, the Devils finished +13 - which makes sense since the Devils out-shot the Caps by 13 along with out-attempting them.  Yet, the top two forward lines didn't drive the play the most.  It was the unit of Mattias Tedenby, Ryan Carter, and David Clarkson.  The trio had the Devils' first good shift of the night, and they were buzzing fairly well until about the third period.   Clarkson was the main shooter as he had 5 shots on net, while Tedenby and Carter each had one.  Still, when it came to attempts, Clarkson was a +10 in Corsi, Tedenby was +8, and Carter was +7.

I will say that line sagged in the third period.  I noticed Tedenby trying to take on defenders several times instead of looking for teammates to no avail. It's like  I also noticed that Carter also faded on offense by, well, not noticing him so much. He did his best work on the penalty kill outside of the first period, in my view.  It's also possible that Bruce Boudreau got them on some match-ups late that didn't really go the third line's way.  As evidence, while the most common line they saw was Joel Ward, Mike Knuble, and Jeff Halpern; they most common forward was actually Ovechkin for Tedenby and Carter.    Yeah, that's not a positive.

Match-Up Mix-Up:  A few developments forced Boudreau's hand to change his lines, which mixed things up in the match-up game.  Mike Green was taken out of the game early after a hard hit by Carter.  He only played 7:33, and so Dennis Wideman had to pick up most of the slack with 27:11 of ice time. So if you saw a lot of #6 in white, you weren't just imagining it.  Also, and J.P. picked this up in his recap, Alexander Semin got benched during the second period.  That would explain why the $6.7 Million Dollar Man only got 8:25 of ice time tonight.  Cody Eakin was also benched for the game's final 25 minutes. Boudreau was essentially playing with 10 forwards, which would explain Ovechkin playing on some shifts with some other guys.   On top of all that, he re-united Ovechkin with Nicklas Backstrom early on. 

The line that suffered (?) the most was the Henrique line.  Zach Parise was the only Devil to finish below zero in Corsi at -1; while Adam Henrique and Nick Palmieri were at zero.  Per the head to head ice time charts, that unit saw a mix of forwards, so it's hard to pin-point who gave them the most trouble.   Maybe it was Ovechkin? Maybe it was the combination of Ovechkin with Johansson and Troy Brouwer?  Either way, I wouldn't get too hung up about it as the Devils as a whole did fairly well against the Caps.

Wait, Hold Up - As A Whole They Did Fairly Well?: Well, yeah.  They held Ovechkin to only two shots on net and one of them was an easy tap-in that came off a favorable bounce.  #8 did draw a hooking call from Mark Fayne, which was understandable since it prevented Ovechkin from going in a little one-on-one with Brodeur.  Still, he didn't dominate the game.   The Devils held the Capitals to a mere 20 shots on net. Despite the fact that they didn't score, they tore through the Caps' defense for 16 shots in the third period and 33 over the whole game. The Devils drew more calls than the Caps, they had the edge in faceoffs (24 for 46 for New Jersey), and they forced Vokoun to be great to keep the Caps in it - which he did, to his credit.  In general, this would be a considered a good performance. They had an edge at even strength, despite the two goals allowed.  That's why the fact they got burnt twice and the manner they got burnt was so disappointing to witness.

Note - You Can Do This:  The Caps managed to get away with a trip that saw the culprit's stick fly off as the Devil fell; and Tedenby's stick was intentionally knocked out of his hands while he had the puck going into the neutral zone.  These were not called.  I presume that referees Chris Rooney and Ghislain Hebert think those are legal plays.  Take note for the future.

Also note that just because I point out these two non-calls doesn't mean I am upset that they didn't get power plays for them. I was at the game, but now I know how awful the PP was tonight, I'm not upset - just pointing it out.

Once Again, Jacques Plante Was Right - Most Goals Against Aren't the Goalie's Fault:  The three shots that beat Brodeur weren't his fault, simply put.  He had no chance on the first or the third one, as both came on his flank. He literally had no chance on the Ovechkin or Johansson goals.   Upon further review, Brodeur possibly could have tried to go for a poke-check on the second one, with Chimera coming in all alone.   Then again, Chimera was coming in so fast, he could have avoided a poke-check and just go around Brodeur.  Which he did anyway, as Brodeur was forced to go lateral to stick with him.   While 17 saves aren't a lot, he looked fine in making them.   Of course, watch as someone suggest he's washed up because he lost a game or some such.

A Brief Palmieri Note: Palmieri looked fantastic early on in the game.  He was throwing his body around properly, he made good passes to Zach Parise, he had a few shots on net, and he managed to take a puck away from Semin on defense and drew a hooking call in the process. I honestly wondered who was wearing his number tonight.  I felt he faded away as time went on, but his first period made me hopeful that he can stick around on that top line until Kovalchuk returns.

Congratulations: Adam Larsson scored his first NHL goal of his career tonight, a powerful shot from the left circle that just beat Vokoun cleanly.  Well done to the rookie.  Have a free tip: please, please, please stop throwing the puck up the middle or into the slot in your own end of the rink.    I know you're still learning and that you're a rookie, but that's an elementary error that has to be corrected.

Zach Parise Had 6 Shots on Net?: Yep.  I can't say the guy isn't trying. His best one was a shorthanded breakaway.  He didn't get much on it, as it all started with him snagging a puck and having to play it to himself.  Yet, the puck was rolling as he dropped it in front of him and so Parise didn't have full control.  It would have been great if he did, but it was not to be.  By the way, he had no shots on net

Crash, Crash, and Crash Some More:  The New Jersey Devils put a lot of vulcanized rubber on Vokoun this evening.  They took a lot of shots at close range and there was usually a Devil at the crease or not too far away in the hopes of getting a rebound or loose puck to put home. That didn't happen tonight.  I'm sure if they keep doing it over time, then they'll get some goals.  At the same time, I felt they kept trying that tactic particularly in the third period.    While it was great for the shot count, I didn't think Vokoun was rattled by it.   On a different night, maybe he gets beaten by a few he doesn't see or doesn't have time to react to.  As for this night, they could have tried more shots from the circles if only to mix it up, perhaps to force longer rebounds.   Perhaps I'm being nitpicky, but it's a thought to consider.   I wouldn't mind if the Devils put up 33 shots and plenty of bodies in Michel Neuvirth's zone.

Those are my thoughts for tonight's game.  I now want to see your comments on the game.  Do you also hate this power play? Do you also love this penalty kill?  Did you like the Devils' performance at even strength? What did you think of the penalties on both sides?  Did you think the third line had such a good game?  Who else on the Devils had a good game? Who did you think had a bad game for the Devils? What do you think will happen tomorrow? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments.  Thank you all for reading and commenting in the Gamethread; thank you for following @InLouWeTrust; and thank you for reading.

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