What Happened: The New Jersey Devils came into this game needing a win to keep their place in the top eight in the Eastern Conference for the time being, but they fell to the New York Rangers behind a strong performance from Henrik Lundqvist.
It was a wild first period and it looked like the game may be headed towards being a high scoring affair, before both teams tightened up defensively.
Star of the game: Henrik Lundqvist.The Swedish netminder bounced back from a shaky first period to shut the door and give the Rangers the win. He was excellent in the second, stopping numerous Devils scoring chances and he held up in the third as the Devils were trying to get the equalizer.
Goat of the game: The entire Devils offense. It looked like it might be a good night for the offense after they scored two first period goals…and that was it. They had their chances in the second and had a big power play in the third, but they couldn’t solve Lundqvist and the stingy Rangers defense. They had 40 minutes to at least grab a goal and they failed in their attempt to at least tie the game at three.
Turning Point: Rick Nash’s second period goal. Rick Nash beat Johan Hedberg on what can be classified as a soft goal in the second and that was all the Rangers needed. They traded for Nash with the hopes that he’d score some big goals, and his goal turned out to be the game winner.
Offense: D – Sure, the two first period goals were nice, but not being able to come up with a goal when it mattered the rest of the way resulted in the loss. The forecheck, which was very good in the first period, disappeared and the Rangers were able to frustrate the Devils offensively.
Defense: B-minus– The defense wasn’t so bad. They did allow the Rangers some good chances in front, but for the most part they did their job. The biggest gaffe was Peter Harrold being slightly out of position on Carl Hagelin’s goal that allowed him to score and give the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the first.
Goaltending: C – Johan Hedberg wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t sharp. His miss-play of the puck on the power play led to the first Rangers goal. He should have been able to make a save on Nash, or at least get a piece on it. Moose did come up with some big saves and this game could have gotten out of hand if not for his play.
Special Teams: C-plus – The power play got the first goal, but they came out small when it mattered in the third period. This team hasn’t been able to change a game with their power play all year. They gave up a shorthanded goal as well, so that certainly wasn’t good. On the kill they were solid.
Instant Insight: This one hurts. I know there are a lot of people who want to push the panic button, but it’s too early for that. Sure, they’ve lost two one goal games at home in a row, but they played pretty well in both of them.
These losses have a different feel than the losses that came during the recent slump. They’re competing, they’re in the games, they just haven’t been able to come up with enough big goals to win.
It’s not over yet. This team is struggling, but as quickly as you can go into a slide, you can come out of it. Though they’re now currently in ninth place in the East, they’re still tied for 6th.
To me, the hard part is trying to think about what they’ve been doing well enough to make you think that they can string some wins together. Have they been competitive? Yes, but there are no style points here. Plain and simple, their game in Carolina on Thursday is a must win. Carolina is currently ahead of them via tiebreaker, so as much as a win helps, a loss would make the hill steeper to climb.
This season is at a crux right now. It’s sink of swim time. Either the Devils are going to start winning games and playing like the team many expect they can be, or their inconsistent play and lack of offense is going to finally catch up to them.
It might be proper to say that the game on Thursday might define the season; it’s that big.