For the second straight night, the Devils (and their fans) had their hearts broken by an opposition’s game-tying goal with under a minute to go in regulation. On Thursday, after Dallas scored with 52 seconds left in regulation, the Devils managed to get the win in overtime — courtesy of Patrik Elias’ power play goal— but on Friday, the Predators scored with 11 seconds left in regulation, and then again in overtime to take the win.
The Devils collected three out of a possible six points over the course of their Western Conference trip to St. Louis, Dallas, and Nashville. In St. Louis, the Devils were shutout for the first time since their November 15 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, also making it five consecutive periods that the Devils were held goalless. The Devils finally broke that scoreless streak in Dallas midway through the first period and, despite blowing the lead late, managed to eke out a victory in overtime when Patrik Elias scored his team-leading 16th career overtime- winning-goal (the win was their first since the previous Friday against Washington). In Nashville, Jaromir Jagr collected career goal number 698, but that wasn’t enough, as the Predators snatched victory from the Devils’ grasp.
If there are any positives to be found for the Devils, look to the goalie-of-the-future, Cory Schneider. He stopped 30 shots, albeit en route to the overtime loss. Over the course of this recent trip, Schneider averaged just two goals per game in regulation (empty netter in St. Louis, OT winner in Nashville) and is now 5-1-3 over the course of his last nine starts. Additional positives include the multiple-point games for Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr in Dallas and in Nashville, with a goal and an assist for each. For Jagr, this is the fourth game in the last five that he has collected multiple points.
The negatives are fairly obvious. This team must effectively close out games, as well as generate more offense. The Devils were under a minute from winning two consecutive games in regulation and failed to do so. If they want to make sure they don’t leave points on the ice like they did Friday in Nashville, they need to be able to hold onto a lead and safeguard it to the end, or better yet, score insurance goals in the third period. Consistently scoring five or six goals a game may be beyond this team, but with the good play of Schneider, the Devils can play low-scoring games if Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe step up and give some help to Jagr and Elias. Scoring two more goals than their opponents is the formula for the Devils to win crucial games down the stretch.
The Devils return to action tonight when they take on the 34-win Colorado Avalanche at home in the Prudential Center.