Game 61 Recap: Devils get zapped by Lightning

New Jersey Devils vs Tampa Bay Lightning


(headline submitted by @RAJH7191)

After playing the Vancouver Canucks on Friday and preparing for the New York Rangers on Monday night, it would be easy for the Devils to look past their Sunday afternoon game against Tampa Bay.  Well, let’s be honest: they did just that.  They played a decent first period, but they looked out of sync for most of this game against a very beat up Lightning team that lost 8-1 in Pittsburgh on Saturday.  Marek Zidlicky wasn’t much of a factor in his Devils debut, and Adam Larsson struggled in his first game back from injury.

Just as the Devils looked at the Vancouver loss on Friday, the Devils looked as if they couldn’t connect on some of the plays they tried.  Their start in this game was better than their start against Vancouver.  Alexei Ponikarovsky made a brilliant play, stealing the puck from Ryan Malone, and then patiently skating in front of Tampa Bay goaltender Mathieu Garon before scoring into an open net.  The Devils took the 1-0 lead, but they weren’t able to do too much once they had the lead.  Still, they finished the first period with a lead.

Here’s some reaction from Twitter after the first period:

@zerogravityfat: Pretty dominant first, gotta keep this up, stamkos is always a treat.

@NJDevilsFans: Zidlicky looks like he has been playing with the Devils for the season.

@RyanQueler: Loved the 600 pound line. Zubie poni and bernier wearing down tampa bay on the forecheck

@jjennii8: The Devils should just play a man down the entire game if they play like they just did on the PK

Unfortunately, the second period wasn’t as smooth as the first period.  Tampa Bay’s frustrating defensive scheme prevented the Devils from connecting with their passes and ability to set up elite scoring chances.  The second period then became the Martin St. Louis show.  After a terribly slow line change by the Devils, Garon sent the puck up the right side of the ice, past Cam Janssen, to Steven Stamkos, who found St. Louis on a breakaway.  St. Louis then beat Brodeur up high to tie the game.  Minutes later, he scored again on a rebound after Ilya Kovalchuk was called for a questionable penalty call.

The feedback after the second period wasn’t as positive as the first:

@emanupo: So, if the Devils play 40 min out of 60 and this period is the 20 min of non-play, we should expect a really good 3rd period…

The third period didn’t start well for the Devils.  They failed on a power play that carried over after Stamkos took a penalty at the end of the second period.  However, less than 30 seconds after the failed power play, Steve Bernier came from behind the net and threw the puck right to Petr Sykora, and the game was tied.  Sykora picked up his 15th goal of the season.  The Devils’ celebration was short-lived, though, as just over 30 seconds following Sykora’s goal, the Devils broke down again.  Adam Larsson chased the puck-carrier on a 3-on-2, turning it into a 2-on-1, and St. Louis found Matt Gilroy, who just had to tap the puck a few inches, and Tampa Bay re-gained the lead.

The Devils couldn’t manage much offense in the following minutes, but Teddy Purcell spun around his shot from the right point and St. Louis deflected it past Brodeur for a hat trick and a 4-2 Lightning lead.  The Devils didn’t push back much until a late penalty on St. Louis gave them a power play.  After a frustrating afternoon for Zach Parise, who came close to scoring several times, but kept getting stopped or missed, Parise finally got one, as Kovalchuk faked a one-timer, he fed Parise, who left his normal spot on the power play, down low, and assumed duties along the right circle and point.  Parise snapped a shot from the right side off the post and in for his 23rd goal of the season to cut the deficit to 4-3.  Kovalchuk then led a tremendous rush up ice, but it was too little, too late, as the Devils eventually fell, 4-3.

It was a rough return for Adam Larsson, who hadn’t played since taking a big hit from P.K. Subban weeks ago.  The Swedish rookie didn’t finish as a minus, but didn’t seem to make the right decisions when he needed to today.  As for the other addition to the lineup, Marek Zidlicky had an even tougher day.  He took a penalty, registered just one shot on net, played 14:25 and was a minus-2.  Perhaps the best player on the Devils today was Alexei Ponikarovsky.  He had scoring chances all day, and could have scored at least two or three goals, had he not been robbed by Garon from the crease or missed passes.

The Devils improved in one of the areas that haunted them on Friday: the face-off circle.  Although Tampa Bay doesn’t have the face-off machines that Vancouver does, the Devils won 27 of 53 draws in the game, although they struggled in the final minutes.  That isn’t an impressive percentage, but it helped the Devils maintain better possession of the puck.  Even so, they only managed to take 22 shots on Garon.  The Devils are amongst the bottom of the league in shots per game, and failed to take advantage of the Lightning’s horrific defense.  Tampa Bay entered the day having allowed the most goals in the entire league.

Ilya Kovalchuk assisted on Parise’s goal.  The assist gives him 60 points on the season, which matches his total from last season.  Ponikarovsky’s goal gives him 11 points in 15 games as a Devil.  Brodeur will start again tomorrow at Madison Square Garden, which will be three games in four nights for Marty.  That’s not something many of you support.

@babycakes12304: I think Hedberg should be in the net knowing we play the Rangers tomorrow.

I guess we’ll all find out together tomorrow against the Rangers.

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Posted on February 26, 2012, in Game Recap, New Jersey Devils and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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