Today was shaping up like it would be a really fun day for Devils fans toward the end of the first period. The Devils seemed to be on their game and were up 3-1 over their most hated rival on the biggest regular season stage possible. It all came unglued after that, though, as the team would give up 6 unanswered goals en route to a 7-3 loss.
The first period was pretty wide open and the Devils were getting chances and capitalizing on them. Early on, Ryane Clowe made a nice play and a great pass to spring Patrik Elias on a partial breakaway that he was able to bury on Henrik Lundqvist to give the team a 1-0 lead. Not too long after, the Rangers would answer back with a goal of their own. Anton Stralman took a point shot that would bounce off of Anton Volchenkov's rear end and go strait to Dominic Moore, who put it home to make it 1-1. The Devils would retake the lead later on a power play goal generated by a great play by Jaromir Jagr, who swung down past the goal line after entering the zone and fed Elias in front for his second of the day. The Devils would keep pushing and add another one when a Mark Fayne point shot went to Jagr in front, who tapped it to Travis Zajac for the finish. The Devils faithful were roaring and things were going great, until a seeing-eye shot from Marc Staal found its way through Martin Brodeur's five-hole after possibly glancing off Zidlicky's skate to make it 3-2. It was a pretty rough goal for Marty to give up and it would end up really being the turning point in this game.
The second period was just a complete unmitigated disaster for New Jersey. The Rangers got a slew of odd-man rushes and Marty was unable to make a big stop or two to keep the Devils in it. Mats Zuccarello would put his first goal in to tie it at 3 on a puck that deflected off of his skate on a 2-on-1. That rush was actually sprung on a pretty blatant stick hold on Salvador by Benoit Pouliot, but so it goes. After that, the Devils didn't respond, they just kept on sinking. Zuccarello added his second of the game on another odd-man rush sprung by a bad pinch by Eric Gelinas. Brodeur actually got over in time as Zuccarello had to settle it on his stick, but he got beat anyway to make it a 4-3 Ranger lead. The Rangers would make it 5-3 when a Hagelin wrister from the circle deflected off Zidlicky and past Marty. It only got worse, as Rick Nash finished a 3-on-1 rush started by Stralman leveling Andy Greene at the opposite blue line to put the Rangers up 6-3. It was a bad period for Marty and it was a downright horrible period for the Devils' transition defense.
With 6 goals allowed on 21 shots, the end of the second period would also signify the end of the day for Marty, as Cory Schneider was brought in to start the third period. The Devils couldn't really muster much of a threat in the third period though, so the Rangers would pretty much cruise to a victory. The only goal in the final frame came off of a Derek Stepan penalty shot where he would beat Schneider high blocker side. The penalty shot was a pretty weak call in itself, as Zajac was called for a phantom hook, but at that point it mattered little to the outcome.
It was an amazing weekend at Yankee Stadium, but it ended on a sour note with the 7-3 final score. On the bright side, it only counts for one game in the standings, so the Devils will have to shake it off and get back to work on Tuesday. Game highlights from NHL.com are below. Unless you're feeling particularly masochistic, you can go ahead and stop watching at the 1:44 mark.
Opposition Perspective: If you're in to that kind of thing, you can go check out the game from the Rangers' perspective over at Blueshirt Banter, where they are understandably happy.
Great Atmosphere: The result might have stunk, but the stadium experience was truly a thing to behold. The weather was chilly, and there was a brief delay due to the glare of the sun in the early afternoon, but it shaped up to be a great day overall. Seeing the place packed with red and blue jerseys was just really cool to see. The alternating roars on the goals in the first period were really fun and it was just a great time altogether. The game got away from the Devils, but players and fans alike seemed to feel the experience was really special. It would have been nice for the game to end up a little closer, but sometimes that's just how it goes.
Bad Day For Marty: Marty Brodeur got the nod in this game for largely sentimental reasons. Most fans, myself included, were fine with the decision based on his legacy. Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario reared it's head and Marty was chased from the game after 6 goals on only 21 shots. Hard to blame him on a number of them, but the ugly goal allowed at the end of the first really turned the game. The numerous odd-man rushes given up by the Devils make it hard to heap too much blame on him, but he was still porous and couldn't find a way to make a big save when the Devils needed him to. It was sad to see it play out the way it did, to be honest. Would have been nice to see Marty put in a vintage effort on the big stage, but the results just weren't there for him tonight. Chalk one up for making decisions with your head and not your heart, I guess.
Bad Day For the Defense: As bad of a day as Marty had, I would put the leaky defense as an equally responsible culprit for this loss. The second period was just filled with bad pinches, guys getting caught flat-footed, turnovers, and other poor plays from the D. They were getting butchered by the Rangers' speed throughout the second frame. Individually, there were bad plays all around. Go look at the replay and try to figure out Volchenkov was doing on the first goal against, because I don't really have much for you. Gelinas had a bunch of gaffes including the ill-advised pinch in the neutral zone that led to the Rangers' go-ahead goal. Greene had some kind of brain fart when he just drifted into Stralman and got steamrolled at the blue line leading to the goal that made it 6-3. They were victims of some fluky plays and bad bounces too, but there was a lot of ugliness to go around for the defensive unit.
Speed Killed: The Devils have been a slow team all year, no one can really deny that. But for the most part, they've been good enough in their positioning to make up for that fact. That was not the case during the second period from hell, when they quite literally looked like they were moving in slow motion at times compared to the Rangers. Rush after rush, guys were getting blown by. They were just constantly flat-footed and the Rangers continued to take advantage time after time.
Two Goals for Patty: The game started so well too, with the Devils all-time leading goal-scorer finding the back of the net twice in the first. Patrik Elias was playing the role of finisher instead of play-maker early on and it was a treat to see. His first goal on a partial breakaway was particularly sweet as he had Lunqvist squared up one-on-one and just beat him. He, along with all of the forwards, didn't have a lot to show for the last two periods, but his first was definitely a good one.
Another Point for Clowe: Devils fans have been catching on to how good of a passer Ryane Clowe can be of late and he showed why on the game's opening goal. He laced a beauty of a pass to Elias to spring him after collecting the puck near the opposite blue line. He didn't have a great day overall, as he got no shots on goal and the Newfoundline as a whole kind of struggled, but that pass was sweet.
Lundqvist Shaky Early: Henrik Lundqvist had a bit of a rough start in the first period as he gave up 3 goals and was fighting the puck quite a bit early on. His stat line got better as he didn't give anything up in the last two frames, but to be perfectly honest, the Devils hardly challenged him after the first intermission. He stated after the game that he was a little fearful he might be pulled before the day was over after allowing the third goal. Alas, Marty was the one sitting on the bench in a wool toque by the end of the game.
Jagr the Magician: Jaromir Jagr added another two quality assists during this game. His first one was particularly pretty as he had a great play where he swung down below the goal line after entering the zone and fed Elias for the power play goal at the front of the net. As he is wont to do, he also had the quote of the day after the game. When asked if he took a moment to drink in the atmosphere at the stadium, he responded "Looked like we all did in the second period." He is just the best.
Can't Mount a Charge: All year, the Devils have been great at battling back and really applying pressure while down in the third periods of games, but hey just couldn't find an answer tonight. Their threats in the third period were minimal and they actually didn't even outshoot the Rangers in the frame, despite being down three goals. The whole team kind of laid an egg in the last two periods tonight.
Shake It Off: It was an ugly game on a big stage. It remains only one game in the standings, though. It was an important game and a tough one to drop, but it's still only one game. They have to get their heads right and get right back to work with a game on Tuesday against the Blues. After the 7-1 drubbing the Devils handed them last week, they will certainly be ready to go, so the Devils need to prepare themselves mentally.
Thank Yous: On a personal note, I just want to thank John and SB Nation for giving me the opportunity to go cover this game for ILWT. It was truly an incredible experience, even if the final score was a bummer. Seeing the inside of the team's locker room and bumping elbows with the media on press row for such a huge event are things I'll never forget. Thank you to everyone who reads and comments and follows along as well because without you, there is no opportunity like this, either.
Your Thoughts: How do you feel after this disappointing result? Were you at the game? If so, did you enjoy the experience? What things about the game and/or the spectacle stood out most to you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and, again, thanks for reading.