Things just continue to get worse for the New Jersey Devils. What could have been the two most important points of the season, turned out to be the continuation of the second longest losing streak in franchise history. Their 8th consecutive loss was a knife to the heart of the Devils season.
Fighting for their playoff lives, New Jersey looked to take advantage of a young goaltender that has rarely played in his short time in the NHL. 26-year-old Anton Khudobin made 24 saves in the Boston Bruins 5-4 victory over the Devils at Prudential Center last night.
The start of the game was not what Devils players, coaches, and fans expected. Once again, New Jersey came out flat, allowing the first goal of the game. Boston’s Gregory Campbell scored his third goal of the season just 1:10 into the contest. The Devils were able to shift momentum after being awarded significant time of the power play; they may have been better off playing 5-on-5. Boston took advantage of sloppy play in the neutral zone, scoring, not one, but two shorthanded goals against the future Hall of Famer, Martin Brodeur. At the end of the first period, the Devils were lucky to escape only down by three.
The start of the second period did not bring much luck to Jersey’s team, either. About two minutes in, Devils captain Bryce Salvador took a Zdeno Chara slap shot off his right wrist, and immediately skated to the bench. Shortly after the departure of their captain, Chara jammed the Bruins fourth goal of the night into the back of the net.
Frustration, once again, started to show on the faces of the Devils, only this time, it surfaced to the game. Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov took a foolish penalty after a high, hard hit on Boston’s Brad Marchand. Volchenkov was escorted off the ice, and was given a five minute major for elbowing, and a game misconduct. The Devils however, would wind up gaining momentum during their PK. Travis Zajac scored a shorthanded goal to cut the lead in half, as the second period ended with the Devils trailing 4-2.
At the start of the third period, the momentum seemed to stay in the Devils favor. After killing off the remaining seconds of the Volchenkov major, New Jersey started to buzz around the Bruins net. Getting chance after chance, the Devils seemed to get close to cutting the lead to one. Nearly six minutes into the third, Andy Greene took a high pass in the slot from Adam Henrique, and buried it in the top shelf, bringing the Devils back within one. For the first time all night, the fans seemed to get into the game. Unfortunately, that excitement did not last long. Just 1:30 later, up and coming superstar Tyler Seguin planted the Bruins fifth goal of the game, sealing the deal at The Rock.
New Jersey showed their resilience and hatred for throwing in the towel. With Brodeur pulled for the final seconds, Matt D’Agostini scored his first goal as a Devil with 37 seconds to go; this would be as close as the Devils would get at completing their hard fought comeback. The final horn sounded, and for the eighth straight game, the Devils left the ice disappointed.
With this loss, and wins by Winnipeg and the New York Rangers, the Devils drop four points out of a playoff spot, and one spot in the standings. The Jets jumped into ninth, holding a two point lead over New Jersey, having played one more game than the Devils.
The absence of Ilya Kovalchuk has been apparent. New Jersey finished 0/8 on the PP, and were unable to get that clutch goal they were able to find all of last season. The defense was not up to par, and the goaltending was not there. If the Devils want any hope of cracking the top 8, they will need to start finding ways to win.
Anton Volchenkov will have a phone hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player safety on Thursday.