Talking Red

Game 22: Leafs Fall On Devils

Posted in on by Dan Pennucci

Through two periods Monday night in Toronto, the Devils looked primed to snap their four-game losing streak against the formerly hapless Leafs. New Jersey carried a 2-1 lead into the third thanks to two goals from league-renowned sniper Marek Zidlicky but could not secure the lead, falling 4-2 to Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel and the rest of the Buds. New Jersey surrendered three third-period goals to drop their fifth straight contest heading into Tuesday’s tilt with Tampa Bay, the second of their five games this week.

Johan Hedberg was less than reliable in losing his sixth-straight start, allowing two pucks to squeak through the pads before he didn’t receive much help on the Leafs final two goals, scored by Clarke MacArthur and Phil Kessel. (Kessel’s goal was his first tally at the Air Canada Centre in over 338 days according to the Montreal Canadiens’ blog Habs Eyes On The Prize). Some of the credit to the Leafs victory can go to goaltender James Reimer, who made a huge save in the third period on Patrik Elias moments after the Leafs took the 3-2 lead courtesy of MacArthur’s tally.

As much as Reimer’s save on Elias preserved the lead, it was grinder Jay McClement’s goal 39 seconds into the third period to tie up the game that helped propel the Leafs to victory. While the Leafs controlled the third period, New Jersey seemed to play with a little more jump in their step, generating several legitimate scoring chances from Travis Zajac and several others. The Devils finished the game outshooting Toronto 30-23 but, as can be the case in hockey, more shots don’t’ equal a victory.

Zidlicky showed some of the offensive skill he’s rumored to have with several heady plays in the offensive zone (don’t worry, he still got caught up ice on at least one Leafs goal). Zidlicky fired home a wrist shot from close range early in the third period to tie the contest at one before he and Ryan Carter combined again, this time on a two-on-one break with Carter giving Zidlicky a great feed for an easy finish.

The Devils are having trouble scoring consistently and their defensive zone play is rather uncharacteristic of them lately. Is it the defense? No Brodeur? Lack of backchecking? The Devils need to figure out what is ailing them, as they are slipping down the Eastern Conference standings, dropping to seventh, three points behind Ottawa with 25.

-Notes:
-The instant that MSG broadcaster Steve Cangialosi finished saying how great the Devils’ penalty kill had been of late, MacArthur did his best Pavel Datsyuk impression in front of Hedberg to give Toronto a 3-2 lead.

-New Jersey has scored nine goals during its five-game losing streak; Steve Bernier, Marek Zidlicky and Andrei Loktionov have two each with Ilya Kovalchuk, Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac notching one apiece.

-David Clarkson has not scored in eight games, notching just one assist over that span while Patrik Elias has no goals and one helper during the team’s five-game losing streak.

-Despite the Leafs leading the NHL in fighting majors heading into Monday’s game, there were no scraps in the contest. The Devils prepared for the possibility of this by inserting Krys Barch into the lineup.

-The Devils will be without Martin Brodeur at least for one more game, according to the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti. Rookie Keith Kinkaid is the current backup netminder and could get a start Tuesday at the rock against goalscoring dynamo Steven Stamkos.

-The Devils’ placed Bobby Butler on waivers after Saturday’s loss to Buffalo, presumably due to a lack of production, but him not covering the slot for Jason Pominville’s power-play goal didn’t help. Butler was claimed by Nashville on Monday, as noted by Tom Gulitti, despite taking part in Monday’s morning skate with the Devils. Butler had one goal and one assist in 14 games with the Devils; both points came in one game.

Follow Talking Red on Twitter @talkingred
Follow Dan Pennucci on Twitter , , , ,