That's the bulk of my reaction to this one. The Devils saw fit to thoroughly punish anyone who decided to stay up for this entire game. If you went to bed after two periods, congratulations, you didn't have to witness a rapid fire meltdown that saw the Devils go from a 3-0 lead to a 4-3 deficit in about 8 minutes. Yes, the Devils fought back and got a point with a lucky goal at the end, but they should have cruised out of Edmonton with an easy two points and instead head on to Vancouver with a sour taste in their mouths.
The first two periods featured a lot of crisp passing, Jagr's first goal as a Devil, another tally for Brunner, and an absolutely filthy unassisted goal from Ryder. The team looked sharp and it appeared they might coast to a big win to start the road trip. Alas, those good feelings were dashed in the aforementioned third period. The defense came apart and Marty wasn't particularly sharp either, and the lead vanished in a hurry. After the Elias goal to tie it and an uneventful OT, the Devils turned in their now-expected listless shootout effort. Somehow they ended up "salvaging" a point in a game they led 3-0 with fifteen minutes left. Crazy sport, sometimes.
Highlights from this roller coaster of a game can be found in this video from NHL.com:
Additional thoughts in no particular order:
New Guys Keep Rolling: No one can blame this season's slow start on the lack of chemistry for the new players. As a matter of fact, the Devils new players have accounted for all but one of the Devils goals, now. Jaromir Jagr scored his first as a Devil with a quick strike from the high slot. Damien Brunner potted his third of the season on a nifty move on the power play. Michael Ryder forced a turnover and cut through the Oilers D and shelved a beauty for his second of the year. There was really a lot to like in this game in the first two periods.
The Brunner signing looks especially big right now as he certainly looks like the Devils' most dangerous offensive weapon. He had three shots on goal in seven attempts, had a sweet play on a PP rush that Adam Henrique couldn't quite finish off, and just seems to be everywhere for the Devils. Jagr had what was probably his best game to date with 3 shots on goal himself. I thought Clowe also looked decent for the most part, though none of his shot attempts were able to find the net.
Some Other Praise: I felt Loktionov had a pretty good night (at least the first two periods) as well. He was a good facilitator and set up some nice chances, though he got a little too into that mode when he forced a pass intended for Bernier when he had an open lane to the net at one point.
Elias found a bit of his groove tonight, registering 3 SOG and a game-tying goal thanks to a fortuitous bounce off of Andrew Ference's skate. Zajac had some moments as well including a breakaway he couldn't get by LaBarbera and an assist on the Brunner goal. Overall, I thought most of the forwards looked decent out there, but they couldn't capitalize on a few chances to extend the lead in the third.
Edmonton's Talent Comes Alive: The Devils did a good job holding all of the top players for the Oilers mostly in check the first two periods. That came apart in the final frame, with two first-overall picks from their stockpile in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (just returning from injury) and Taylor Hall tallying goals. Summer acquisitions David Perron and Andrew Ference also found the net for Edmonton.
Twenty-Six Minutes is Too Many: Let's talk about Bryce Salvador. I thought he had some decent moments in the game here and there. Heck, if he stopped around his 18th minute, I probably would have felt he had a decent game. He got caught flat footed at one point in the first period at the blue line leading to an Oiler rush, but I though he had some solid plays with his stick and his body. I didn't mind his fight, either. He was sticking up for Zidlicky (even though Zids kind of started it), and jumped in against resident Oilers goon Mike Brown and got the better of the tilt (way better punch Corsi than Krys Barch).
Then the third period happened. It was a forgettable one for ol' Bryce, as he had a hand in two of the four Oiler goals. First, he committed the always fun puck over the glass delay of game penalty, which led to the Oilers power play that saw their first goal scored. Then, on the third goal, he got burned by Perron off the faceoff leading to the tying goal. He seemed to get worse as the game rolled on and one has to wonder why the oldest defender on the team is still playing crazy long minutes.
Penalties Turn the Tide: There were two distinct stretches where the Oilers controlled play tonight and it was the last 8 minutes of the first period and the obvious 4-goal-in-8-minute stretch in the third. Both of these stretches of Oiler dominance were kickstarted by a NJ penalty. Heck the Devils didn't allow a shot on goal for the first 12 minutes of the game leading up to the first penalty (which was a boneheaded too many men call caused by, who else, Zidlicky). Not sure how much to read into this, but I guess the message is don't take dumb penalties.
In Which Peter Harrold Makes Mike Sad: Prior to this game, I thought Harrold was holding his own well out there. Tonight, I had no such feelings. I thought he was one of the few players who looked shaky in the first two periods when things were going right for the Devils and he certainly didn't look good in the third, which included him coughing the puck up leading to Taylor Hall's go-ahead goal. I appreciate Harrold as a 7th D you can plug into the lineup and have give a decent effort. He's a good versatile piece to have. I don't want him starting every night, though, especially when Mark Fayne is collecting dust in the owner's box.
Which Brings Me to Mark Fayne: #FreeFayne
The Rest of the Defense: Marek Zidlicky was his usual self tonight. Some sloppy play with the puck, a couple assists, and a dumb penalty. Call it the Marek Zidlicky hat trick.
Volchenkov was rough, per usual, but he did have one nice play on the PK to break up a golden opportunity by Ales Hemsky. I wouldn't be too broken up if A-Train found the owners box if we're not sending Harrold there.
I thought Larsson looked better tonight after some rough efforts in the first two games. Looked smoother on the breakout and even had a couple shots find the net. Hopefully he can keep it up.
Greene looked solid for the most part. Ho hum.
Marty Party Gets Shut Down: It looked like it was going to be a nice night for Martin Brodeur through two periods. He had a shutout going, albeit on not a lot of shots, and a big save on Ales Hemsky on the doorstep in the second. Then came the third, where he gave up 4 goals on 14 shots, including a stretch with goals on 3 consecutive shots. I know the D let him down a bit, but that just isn't good enough.
The first goal, there was absolutely nothing he could do as the Oil swarmed on his doorstep, but I felt the next two were stoppable. Particularly the Andrew Ference goal to make it 3-2, which was nothing but a low, soft slapper from the point. There were some bodies in front of him, but he has to stop that puck. The last goal is tough to blame on him given the situation the D put him in, but he still got beat 5-hole easily by Hall. Marty has to be better.
Final Thoughts: This was one of the more frustrating games you will see as a Devils fan, and three losses in three games certainly doesn't feel good. All that said, I don't think we should get too bent out of shape, yet. It's a long season, and the Devils did at least grab a point, albeit in disappointing fashion.
There's another game tomorrow night in Vancouver, and hopefully the Devils see fit to reward those of us who stay up a little better than they did tonight. Sound off with your thoughts on the Oilers game below and thanks for reading.