Talking Red

Game 6: Devils Lose Ugly In OT

Posted in on by Dan Pennucci

The Devils are still undefeated in regulation.

Forget the fact that they have lost their last three games in overtime or a shootout. Forget the fact their defense has been a cavalcade of errors since last Friday’s win over Washington, regularly leaving Martin Brodeur out to dry (although he helped Thursday). Forget the fact their top scoring line has been more elusive than Sasquatch.

The Devils are still undefeated in regulation, standing at 3-0-3 after Thursday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Islanders. The loss was less than ideal, but the Devils did see the return of Adam Henrique from a thumb injury suffered while playing the AHL and the insertion of defenseman Adam Larsson into the lineup.

To say Thursday’s loss was an ugly game is a slight understatement. New Jersey surrendered two power-play goals including the game-winner from the Islanders’ Brad Boyes at 2:01 of the extra frame on one of the strangest plays of the NHL season.

The Islanders sent the puck around the boards, with Bryce Salvador behind the goal tying up an Islanders player and Anton Volchenkov awaiting the hard around, Martin Brodeur wanders into the Martin Brodeur zone (the trapezoid) to stop the puck and play it right to John Tavares. Salvador and Volchenkov scrambled to the front of the goal, each doing yeoman’s work to keep the puck out before Boyes nudged the puck across the goal line.

The Islanders were given the power play after Henrik Tallinder cross-checked Matt Moulson into the boards on a play that should have been called a penalty. Minutes earlier, New Jersey opened the overtime with the final 30 seconds of a power play where Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky each were denied golden scoring chances either by the play of Evgeni Nabokov or blocked shots.

Trailing the entire game, New Jersey’s erratic defensive zone play and turnovers combined for one of their most disappointing contests of the season, a contest in which they notched a season-high four goals. Tavares continued to frustrate the Devils, scoring twice and assisting on the game-winner. Brodeur did find a way to keep him from scoring late in the third period, simply by tripping him. (It should have been a penalty in all honesty. Moments later, the Islanders were whistled for having nine men on the ice, giving the Devils the power play that carried into overtime).

Tavares’ second goal, late in the second period, had all the qualities of an EA sports NHL ’13 tally, including a blind clearing attempt turned breakout pass, a poke check from Salvador that hit the puck yet did not knock it from Tavares and Brodeur flopping on the ice toward two players. New Jersey equalized later at the 17:12 mark of the second period from Tallinder as the Devils, for once, were able to score a goal on a poor clearing attempt from the Islanders, rather than give one up.

The Devils almost surrendered a shorthanded goal to Michael Grabner in the second period, only to be bailed out by the post. The play started when Zidlicky mishandled a pass to the point, emulating his penchant for defensive zone turnovers in the offensive zone this time.

Adam Larsson played his first game of the season, playing no worse than most other Devils’ defenders have played. He had several solid outlet passes and his shot from the point set up the Devils’ first goal, eventually slammed home by Steve Bernier. However, Larsson literally had a hand in giving the Islanders the lead at the 11:32 mark of the third period, perfectly deflecting Mark Streit’s soft wrist shot from the point past Brodeur. Larsson played 17:51, finishing a plus-1 with two blocked shots and a hit.

The Devils tied the game up 2:18 later with Adam Henrique punctuating his season debut with a clutch tying goal. Henrique collected the puck in the slot after David Clarkson dug it out of the corner before making space to send a backhand attempt over a sprawling Nabokov. Henrique quickly resumed his place on the Devils’ top scoring line despite Jacob Josefson practicing there in the morning.

Ryan Carter tied up the game for the first time, knotting it at two in the second period. The CBGB line was the team’s best trio for most of the game, generating several quality scoring chances and plenty of pressure on the Islanders’ attack, combining for two goals and four assists. On the defensive end, Brodeur allowed five goals on 35 shots and did have some quality plays, but channeled his inner Patrick Roy on the evening, roaming too far from his crease a few times before finally getting burned on the last play.

The Devils face Pittsburgh in Newark on Saturday before another contest with the Atlantic Division leading Islanders on Sunday.

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