BY DAVE TURNER
“If you don’t show up with your A-game, they can make you look bad and that’s what happened,” Pete DeBoer told Deb Placey of MSG Network. “We don’t lose our composure like that very often, but it happened tonight.”
What happened: Uninterested, undisciplined play by the Devils led to a third period where they were blown away by the Penguins. Defensive breakdowns and almost no offensive production led to the Devils first regulation loss of the season. It was ugly and now the Devils face what is almost a must win out on Long Island tomorrow.
Star of the game: Sidney Crosby. The Pittsburgh superstar had three points (1g, 2a) and he paced a Penguins offense that created a ton of pressure on Martin Brodeur all game. The Pens showed just how dynamic they can be offensively when they get going.
Goat of the game: The entire Devils defense gets the nod here. Second chances, turnovers and an inability to clear the puck resulted in numerous scoring chances. Not to say that Brodeur was good, but without some key saves, this game could have been even more lopsided. That’s two straight completely underwhelming performances by the New Jersey defensive-corps. The defense as a whole was the culprit today.
Turning point: Anton Volchenkov had a give-away early in the third period that resulted in a goal by Kris Letang. Volchenkov has been sluggish all year and the turnovers killed any chance at a comeback today. When you give the puck away like that to anyone, chances are they’re going to make you pay and that’s what happened here.
Offense: F. Sixteen shots on goal in a game where they were trailing most of the way is unacceptable. The two new line combinations didn’t seem to work, as outside of a few scoring chances late in the first and early in the second, the Devils did almost nothing to test Marc-Andre Fleury.
Defense: D-. Give-aways, poor play in front of the net and an inability to clear pucks from the slot. It was a terrible day across the board for the Devils defense. They let the Penguins control the play, as they were able to cycle the puck and get far too many second-chance opportunities. They left Brodeur out to dry on more than one occasion.
Goaltending: C. Brodeur was solid early on, but the two second period goals had to be saved. In the third period, it became a shooting gallery, as the Devils had no answer for the Penguins offense. 10 goals surrendered in two games is pretty awful, no matter what way you look at it, but without Brodeur’s play today, this game could have been something like 7-1.
Special teams: C. After the penalty kill looked uncharacteristically bad against the Islanders, they were pretty good today. Any time your PK finished +1 on the day, you can consider that a win. They held the Penguins off the board on the power play and the shorthanded goal by Andy Greene was the only bright point of the game for New Jersey. The power play was invisible once again. Granted, they couldn’t do anything on offense all day, but the power play still continues to struggle mightily.
Instant analysis: This game hurts. Coming in to this matchup, the three overtime losses didn’t seem so bad, but with this loss, the Devils have gained only three of their last eight possible points, a 37.5% of points-won to points-available ratio. The loss here drops them to 64.2% in points/points available, down from 75% prior to this game.
This is the first bad performance all the way through for this team. It’s going to happen, you’re going to lose to good teams on the road. The question now becomes, how will the Devils fair against the Islanders tomorrow. I hate to call the the eighth game of the season a must-win, but it almost feels like it. After four losses in a row, New Jersey is in desperate need of a win.
With The Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning on tap for next week, before a back-to-back with the Penguins, it won’t get any easier. Simply put, this team MUST be better on all phases, or they’re in for a rude awakening next week.
For The Devils, it’s simple. They have to wipe the slate clean and forget about this one. They can refocus on the Islanders and right the ship with a good performance tomorrow.