A look at the final score of 4-3 suggests the game wasn’t too bad a loss as the Devils suffered a few short days ago, but that’s just in goal differential. The Lightning are arguably the best team in hockey, whereas Detroit is a bottom-feeding, lottery team. If there was any game that should have been a guaranteed win for the Devils for nothing more than to get them back in the groove of the early season home stand, it should have been this one.
In the first period, both teams began with choppy, sloppy, undisciplined play. The first-half of the first period was an odd assortment of end-to-end rushes with no substantial scoring chances or play in the neutral zone. A first period power play goal by Frk transitioned the Red Wings into a more organized, assertive style of play. The Devils spent the bottom half of the first being outplayed and under constant pressure. The only positive from the first period is that they went to the locker room only down by one goal.
In the Second, New Jersey picked up their pace substantially, but were still outplayed in aggressiveness and zone time. The Devils squeezed out an even strength goal from Blake Coleman to keep hope alive in a tied game. Not a great period, but adequate enough to even the score.
Entering the third, New Jersey had a residual penalty kill from a Damon Severson holding call. For a few short minutes, it appeared the tables turned and New Jersey was outperforming the Red Wings. A go-ahead power play goal by Sami Vatanen seemed to energize the team, until Vantanen immediately took a penalty after the face-off, resulting in a Detroit power play goal. Once Detroit tied it up again, the game went the entire way of the Red Wings.
The most gut-punching moment of the Devils season came at 12:50 of the third period, when New Jersey was on the power play. It was their best, chance to leave Motor City with two points, but instead, Justin Abdelkader made it 3-2 Detroit on a shorthanded goal. Detroit went on to score an empty net shorthanded goal after John Hynes pulled Schneider on a late Devils power play, after which Marcus Johnasson scored a meaningless goal with five seconds left to make the final score 4-3. Johnasson’s goal kept Taylor Hall’s point streak alive at 10 games.
Rookies not stepping up…For one, this game saw Kevin Rooney and Joey Anderson continue to be in the rotating cast of characters and call-ups from the AHL. Both have yet to make an impact. They had the golden opportunity to give Devils management a reason to not send them back to Binghamton, and failed to capitalize on opportunities in their favor.
Not converting on power play opportunities…Each team received six penalties, but the Devils were gifted with two power plays that sat Detroit’s leading scoring threat—Dylan Larkin—in the penalty box. They failed to capitalize on either opportunity.
Cory Schneider’s Return…The good news was that Corey Schneider made saves. Schneider gained confidence, form and athleticism as the game progressed. The first goal he let in was a goal that could be expected from a goalie returning to a professional game for the first time in months. The second goal came when his defense—with two major penalty killers in the sin bin—failed to clear a rebound. The third Detroit goal came off a turnover by will butcher in the Detroit zone while on a Devils power play. For his performance, Schneider was named the game’s third star.
Discipline, consistency becoming problematic…The entire night, New Jersey played choppy, sloppy, and without a sense of purpose. The speed and aggressive forechecking that was so prevalent in their initial four-game win streak was nowhere to be found tonight. An ugly win is better than a pretty loss, and the Devils surely played ugly tonight. But if they left with two, even one, point, some of that could have been forgiven.