Two leads by two goals: ruined. Fifteen seconds away from a regulation win: erased. Overtime: nothing. Shootout: nothing. Two points: halved. The fans: restless and I don't blame them. The New Jersey Devils lost 5-4 to the Tampa Bay Lightning through a shootout.
They were up 2-0 and managed to waste it in minutes. They got up 4-2 and that withered away. The shootout was a repeat of what happened in Ottawa and several others: Devils didn't score, the other team did. While every point matters, the Devils were in a position to win in regulation. With everyone else in the Eastern Conference idle tonight, two points would have been wonderful. Instead it's only one and I'm not happy at all about it. Let's get to the sections.
The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The NHL.com Faceoff Comparison | The NHL.com Devils Time on Ice Report | The Time on Ice Corsi & Fenwick Charts | The Time on Ice Head to Head Icetime Chart
The Opposition Opinion: Raw Charge might have an opinion about this game. Go visit them.
The Game Highlights: There were some highlights. Here's the video from NHL.com
Wasted Goals: The New Jersey Devils managed to score four goals on 25 shots without Ilya Kovalchuk in the lineup.. This isn't like the Ottawa game on Monday where the Devils dominated possession but . The Devils got goals against Mathieu Garon they normally don't get night-in, night-out. Andrei Loktionov scored off a wonderful wrist shot. Tom Kostopoulos got a cheap penalty shot - and converted. Andy Greene scored from distance on a power play. Ryan Carter took a giveaway by Sami Salo on a Tampa Bay power play, skated up one-on-one against a defender, and wristed a shot Garon wish he had back. A shorty, a penalty shot, a power play goal, and Loktionov staying hot; and they couldn't finish the game. I'm not saying the Devils won't score those kinds of goals again; though I'm pretty sure Kostopoulos won't get a penalty shot again this season nor will Carter score a shorty. But my point the team hasn't put up four in regulation in many games this season. It's very frustrating when that kind of production doesn't yield two points.
Why Didn't You Shoot More on Garon: With Garon giving up the goals that he did, it's baffling to me that the Devils were only able to put 25 shots on net in total. The Devils got seven shots on five power plays; while they got a goal and had several shifts of possession, more shooting opportunities were passed up than taken. At even strength, the Devils only had 17. Loktionov scores on a great shot but he only had one other shot. Kostopoulos scores on a penalty shot but doesn't get more than one other shot. Matt D`Agostini picked up two assists and had no shots. Adam Henrique only had one. I don't get it. Garon's not a good goalie. The team should have been pushing to keep getting rubber on him, especially after Carter's strike. The Lightning haven't been a good possession team. Yet, tonight, the Devils were just about even with Tampa Bay in possession at evens; they play out the game late, and I just sit there wondering what could have been even with four goals scored.
It's A Small Margin Between Important to Lackluster: The last time the Devils allowed more than three goals in a game was on March 9 in Carolina in a 6-3 loss. Well, that run ended tonight. Martin Brodeur was called upon to make several important stops throughout the night. He robbed Benoit Pouliot twice and denying plenty from Stamkos. He had no chance on Stamkos' first goal and Thompson's goal was pretty good definition of a bad bounce. He also couldn't stop Killorn's shot, a well-placed shot at Brodeur's left flank after several excellent passes with the extra man. That said, Brodeur wasn't just beaten by good-to-great plays. He let up one stinker, which was Stamkos' second goal. It appeared to have gone through his skates. It was a bad goal to allow and it turned 4-2 into 4-3 for Tampa Bay after the Devils came close to scoring a fifth goal on Garon. Brodeur wasn't very good in the shootout either. Teddy Purcell just beat him straight up and couldn't deny Viktor Hedman, though Hedman's shot was a well-placed shot. But it never should have gotten there had a certain #28 had a better night, but I'll discuss him later.
Stamkos the Star: Keeping an opponent to 25 shots is usually a mark of a good defensive performance, but many of those 25 shots were dangerous ones on Brodeur. Most of the damage came from the line of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Alexander Killorn. That line combined for 10 shots and most of them (7) came from Steven Stamkos. The star was exactly that and he scored the first and third goals, set up Alexander Killorn for the late-game, extra-man equalizer, and drew a power play in overtime that could have ended New Jersey early. It's because of #91 that the fans feel the defense got wrecked. In reality, it was mostly driven by that line plus three shots each from Benoit Pouliot and Cory Conacher, who each only stood out in moments.
Derailed Train: As far as the defensemen go, two-thirds of them were pretty good. Andy Greene had a great night and Mark Fayne was the team's best player in possession with a +9 Fenwick and a +6 Corsi. On the opposite spectrum, Peter Harrold and Anton Volchenkov were terrible. Harrold finished at -6 Fenwick and -4 Corsi and just pulled away as Thompson split him and Volchenkov on his way to a goal. It's only that high because Anton Volchenkov only got eleven and a half minutes at even strength.
A-Train in particular was awful. He did see the Stamkos line more often than most, but he's too experienced to not come up so lame in his own end. He looked like a jerk as he lost Stamkos and could only watch him score his first goal. He got beat by Nate Thompson like Colin Greening did on Monday, hooked him, and Thompson managed to score when the rebound popped up and went off Thompson's leg and past Brodeur. Before Stamkos put one through Brodeur's skates, Volchenkov had a chance to play the puck around away from the forechecking Stamkos. Instead, he played it back off the boards, which allowed Killorn to get it and find Stamkos down low. Basically, Volchenkov played some kind of role on Tampa Bay's first, second, and third goals.
The unfortunate thing is that Volchenkov (and Harrold) have been playing well in recent games and Adam Larsson has not. So Larsson was scratched, which led to Fayne returning to the lineup. Tonight, A-Train made a great case for not only Larsson to be immediately inserted back on the blueline but also for Henrik Tallinder to get activated for the first time in weeks.
Weak Penalty Shot Call, Good Finish: Tom Kostopoulos wasn't really hooked or slashed by a defender from behind that denied him a shooting chance on a breakaway. A breakaway that was created by Bryce Salvador of all players. It wasn't a good call. But he made the most of it. His goal was his first with the Devils and I believe it's the first time a first-goal-for-a-team came from a penalty shot. So there's that. I liked what he and Tim Sestito did on the forecheck, incidentally.
Six on Five: I have no issue with Zidlicky out in the 6-on-5 situation on defense. I do have one with the CBGB line being the defending forwards. While they finished about even in possession as a line, they are not a defensive line. Stephen Gionta, to pick a player, should not have seen Martin St. Louis and Stamkos more than any other forward; they were not keeping those guys quiet. Again, Stamkos, St. Louis, and Killorn combined for 10 shots and 17 attempts.
Now, with respect to Killorn's goal, that's just a great play by Tampa Bay. They kept the puck along the perimeter, they moved it effectively to draw everyone's attention, and Stamkos' pass to Killorn was not only on point but fast enough to give his winger a window of opportunity on the left flank. But I can't help but feel that if the Zajac line was out there instead - I know, they had a shift before then - they could have denied that sequence of events earlier.
Strong Kill, But the Power Play...: The Devils' penalty kill was strong tonight. No goals by Tampa Bay, Carter turned a gift from Sami Salo into a goal, and they somehow got out of a 3-on-4 situation in overtime. They were big.
The power play, well, I'm not sure what to say. The first and third weren't effective with one early shot and not much more. The second, fourth, and fifth ones had possession but it didn't yield many shooting attempts. The fourth one, the last one in the second period was particularly memorable for plenty of Devils in spots to shoot but they passed it away more often than not. Again, on a goalie like Garon, it was baffling. That said, they did score on one and they did get some shots. I guess it was OK overall, but again, I'm left feeling somewhat unfulfilled.
The Pressure Increases: The Devils play in Sunrise tomorrow night. They need a win. This is what happens when points are dropped.
That's my take on tonight's game. What's your take? Are you as unhappy as I am? Probably so, but what can the Devils do for Florida tomorrow night to ensure they get a win? What needs to get better and fast? Are you as glad as I am that we won't see Stamkos for the rest of this season? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this shootout loss in the comments. Thanks to everyone who posted in the gamethread and followed along on Twitter with @InLouWeTrust. Thank you for reading.