The New Jersey Devils chose the 1980s, the decade of Ghostbusters, Madonna and Ronald Reagan, to be the theme for their final regular season matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Considering how the previous two matchups went, with heavily lopsided victories in favor of the Leafs, little was expected of the Devils. While it may have ended with a loss, it was a more entertaining game than some expected.
The final score of 4-2 may seem like a competitive game, but depending on the period you tuned in to watch you might have thought different. Start off with the first period for example, where the Maple Leafs dictated almost all of the play in the Devils’ zone. The score at the end of the period wasn’t pretty either, with New Jersey heading to their dressing room down 3-0.
All three goals of the first period came with Keith Kinkaid having heavy traffic in front of him in net. The first goal was a shot by the blue line from defenseman Hainsey. The second and third goals came off the stick of former Islander captain John Tavares. Tavares has scored in all three games against the Devils this season. Toronto ended the period feeling rather untested, while the Devils skated off thinking that it just might be one of those nights.
After a rather unspectacular first few minutes to the second, things changed, and they changed quickly. First came Blake Coleman scoring his 14th goal of the season, surpassing his career best from a year ago and again proving his case that the native Texan is an underrated scoring presence. Almost immediately afterward, Brian Boyle scored his 12th of the season to pull the Devils back within one goal for the first time since the first half of the first period. Toronto goaltender Michael Hutchinson, still sporting red and black goalie pads fresh of his late December trade from the Florida Panthers, lets in two goals to give the Devils a fighting chance.
Still down by one, the Devils had something to fight for to tie up the game in the third and seek overtime. Even though they put up a valiant effort, it wasn’t enough. A late 3rd period empty-net goal by Mitch Marner gave Toronto a 4-2 lead to put away all hope for a Devils comeback win.
The Devils played well in the final two periods, but not well enough. They needed to put forth a much stronger performance to dig themselves out of that first-period hole they found themselves in but were only playing well enough to find themselves in striking distance to tie the game. They played like a team willing to settle for one point, instead of a team that wanted to fight for two.
It’s very fitting the Devils chose to honor the 1980’s, their first decade of existence in New Jersey. That decade was full of futility and little success for the team in the Meadowlands. Like those Devils teams of 30 years ago, tonight once again ended in a loss for Jersey’s team.