Devils Survive Poor First, Worse Second with Late Surge, get Shootouted

Best Devil for the first 65 tonight - Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

A boring game early became an exciting game late. Obligitory Devils shootout ineptitude comment.

A late game for those of us on the east coast, yet the Devils decided to play it cool and show up even later.  Hey, better late then never.  A late charge turned into a very entertaining overtime and, unsurprisingly, another shootout loss.

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 Devils Time on Ice Log |The Extra Skater Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: Check out our friends over at Mile High Hockey for their take.

The Game Highlights:

Early on, this was really a game that featured a lot of mucking around on both sides, particularly in the neutral zone. Colorado had a pretty dangerous chance very early on, when John Mitchell rang one off the post on the breakaway.  Fortunately, this was one of only three times Cory Schneider was beaten (two posts, 1 goal) in 65 minutes, otherwise the Devils would have been blown out of the arena by the end of the second period.

Just about halfway through the first period, Ryan O'Reilly put Colorado up 1 - 0 on a sudden and costly defensive zone breakdown by the Devils.  It was basically a total blowup by New Jersey. After a lost faceoff, Gelinas can't cover Brad Malone in the corner, he gets the puck behind the net to Patrick Bordeleau.  Merrill loses a puck battle to Bordeleau, Boucher doesn't cover O'Reilly in front, and he slams home a goal up and over the shoulder of Cory Schneider from the corner of the crease.

The Devils did push back a little bit. The ZZ Grandpops line created two decent point shots from Andy Greene, but Varlamov, who was very sharp all night, took care of both.  The first period was not nearly the display of futility as the second, but it still wasn't good.  Shots were pretty even late into the first period, but it just felt like Colorado had more zip and also enjoyed the better run of play, probably as a result.  Stil, both sides were sloppy. The game had a choppy feel to it and neither side really seemed to be able to enter the zone cleanly with regularity.

The Second period was when Cory Schneider decided to keep the Devils in the game.  It was a totally forgettable period for New Jersey. They followed up a mucky first period with an even sloppier second period.  An absolutely brutal turnover by Bryce Salvador, who seems to feature one of these a game lately, led to a juicy scoring chance from Nathan MacKinnon.  Fortunately, MacKinnon missed wide.  Not too much later, a turnover by Ryan Carter led to a great chance in front for Tyson Barrie, but Schneider came up with a great save.

The Devils, after just finally getting their first shot of the second period around the halfway point, drew a penalty when Adam Henrique was tripped.  A chance to turn the momentum turned instead against the Devils when Eric Gelinas had to trip up Ryan O'Reilly to stop a breakaway he created by blasting the puck square into O'Reilly;s legs. Just seconds later, before the Avalanche power play even kicked in, Zidlicky turned the puck over, turning into an odd man rush for Landeskog and MacKinnon, but the attempt went wide.

A late slashing penalty to Loktionov on a play which seemed, at a glance, to really separate the Colordao player from his stick rather easily, created more drama. There were a few dangerous chances for Colorado.  There was a lot of pressure, a post from Matt Duchene, and a couple of saves by Schneider.  The Avalanche power play also featured the Devils best (and possibly only?) scoring chance of the period when Henrique nearly broke through with a great individual effort and some nifty stickhandling.  Overall, the Devils were very fortunate to survive the second period.  Colorado's top forward lines were really getting at New Jersey.

Fortunately, the third period was an entirely different story for the Devils.  Elias started the period with Zajac and Jagr and they instantly created chances. What forwards looked good for the Devils tonight?  Anyone who played with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr. That is all.  Truthfully, several of the forward lines got rolling a little bit in the third.  The Henrique line was strangely invisible, since they have been so good lately. This line did see a lot of Duchene and O' Reilly, both of whom were excellent for Colorado.

For the first part of the third period, Colorado seemed content, save the occasional counter attack, to let the Devils throw whatever they could at the net.  Perhaps they were expecting the see the same Devils circa the second period.  Fortunately, that was not the case.  The new lines had more pop, and several of them were rolling.  Elias had a beautiful chance all alone in front on a great setup from Zajac, but he couldn't beat Varlamov. After some great pressure and opportunities, the Devils broke through.  DeBoer's reworked lines paid off, as the newly formed unit of Zubrus-Loktionov-Boucher found the back of the net. The goal was a total five man effort.  Zone entry by Boucher was followed up by some great work by Merrill and Zubrus to keep the puck down low.  Then excellent passing by Gelinas and Merrill led to a blast from Loktionov which glanced off Boucher and into the back of the net.

The Devils were really charging hard leading up to the goal,  but I though Colorado pushed back nicely afterwards.  The Landeskog line pinned back the CBGBs on one shift.  The Duchene-O'Reilly-McGinn line provided pressure, as they did all night.  After some significant pushback by Colorado which didn't amount to anything, the game sort of went firewagon style, with opportunities going in both directions.  Schneider made a great glove save on Mitchell during what I think was a bad change.  Elias turned the puck over in the neutral zone, leading to a great chance for MacKinnon.  The Devils were able to counter.  Elias sprung Bernier on a partial break, but he was denied by Varlamov.  Even in the last minute Schneider had to stand tall and stop Duchene on a partial break.  I would say it was more Avs late in the period, despite a series of about seventy icings in a row at one point.

Overtime also featured some great opportunities up and down the ice on both sides, as 4-on-4 play often will.  After a great chance for Zubrus in front, MacKinnon had a solid opportunity at the other end.  Shortly after, a kick save by Schneider on Nick Holden.  Back the other way, a Zajac to Jagr 2-on-1 was picked out of the air by Varlamov's glove, although I'm not sure the shot was actually on target.  Just after, Zidlicky fired wide on a loose puck all alone in front created by a Gelinas shot.   Near the end of overtime, Schneider had to make a huge save on a 2-1 break to preserve the opportunity to earn a shootout loss.

The first attempt of the shootout featured Duchene with a dirty yet silky smooth move to completely undress Schneider.  Elias beat Varlamov to the far post, but then couldn't / didn't lift the puck on his backhand and Varlamov quickly ate the puck up with a flashy left pad.  Ryan O'Reilly ended it by beating Schneider off the shoulder.  Game over. A point which the Devils honestly should be happy with in a game they easily could have found themselves trailing 4-0 by the end of the second, if not for Schneider's fantasticness.  It's just too bad his dominance during actual play was not there in the shootout.

Game Notes:

Happy to see 12 forwards again, even though the Devils hand was forced by illness, or "illness".  Who knows.  Either way, despite the bad start, I like 4 forward lines, and I liked the work of the two new lines that were out there in the third period (Elias-Zajac-Jagr; Zubrus-Loktionov-Boucher). The other two forward lines were not rolling tonight. I thought CBGB was particularly bad at points. The Clowe-Henrique-Ryder line was not that effective either. Hope to see 12 forwards again for the next game.

The defense was a mixed bag.  Salvador had some rough moments, as did Gelinas and Merrill. The two kids chipped in big time on the tying goal, however. The other three defenders were pretty good.  Zidlicky had an ok game. Fayne, and Greene, not bad. I hesitate to say any of the defenders had a great game.  I look forward to the passing stats, I think most of them are going to be pretty poor.  I think that should probably hold true for the forwards too.

Cory Schneider was outstanding all game.  He had no chance on the one goal he gave up, and he was stopping everything thrown at him.  That is, until the shootout, when he was stopping very little of what was thrown at him.  Ah well.  My final thought for now is that he stole the team one point in a game they probably didn't deserve one.  Despite overall attempts and shots not being that uneven, the Devils really only played about 15-20 pretty good minutes in a 65 minute game. I mean, did anyone really truly think we were going to win a shootout?

So what are your final thoughts on tonight's game?  We're you impressed with Colorado's impressive young forwards?  Did you think the goaltenders shined on both ends of the ice? Which did you think had a better game?  Did you like the lineup used by the Devils tonight?  Did you think they played better than I am giving them credit for? Worse?  What else did you notice about tonight's game?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts and takes on everything in tonight's game, and thanks for reading.

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