By Eric Paragallo
What Happened: The Devils losing streak extended to six games as they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a final score of 5-2. Keith Kinkaid made his NHL debut in relief of Johan Hedberg, and registered twelve saves on thirteen shots.
Star of the game: Alexander Kilorn – He potted a pair of points. A goal on wrist shot from the high slot that turned out to be the game winner, and a pretty assist on a 2-on-1. He pulled the puck from his backhand to his forehand and dished it off to Martin St. Louis to give Tampa Bay a two goal lead at the time.
Goat of the game: Sad to say, but this one has to fall on Hedberg’s shoulders again. He gave up a deflating first period goal to Nate Thompson, a period where he really didn’t face much rubber; and a soft second period goal toKilorn, which ultimately got him pulled. The Devils aren’t a team that’s going to light the league on fire with their offense; they need good goaltending to win games. Hedberg’s efforts simply aren’t cutting it.
Turning Point: Thompson’s first period goal. The Devils came out with a decent effort to start the game, but a late tally by Thompson completely took the wind out of the Devils sails. The Devils never really recovered until it was too late.
Offense: C–minus – The Devils scored two goals, but both came in the final five minutes after the Lightning had already built a 4-0 lead. The most troubling aspect about the offense was its complete disappearance for much of the second and third period. This cannot happen in a must-win game, especially against a Tampa Bay team that is weak in their own end.
Defense: D – The defense continues to struggle. As a group, they had trouble getting shots to the net from the point, and were often caught out of position, leading to numerous odd-man-rushes, particularly in the second and third periods.
Goaltending: F;B–plus – I’ve decided to award two grades because the Devils had two separate goaltenders play in net tonight. First up is Hedberg, and as you probably guessed, the F is for him. He gave up three goals on eleven shots, two of which were questionable. Peter DeBoer has given Hedberg every opportunity to snap out of his own personal funk, but the man’s confidence is clearly shaken. At this point, you can’t trust Hedberg to make the big save, or even the timely save. Kinkaid gets the B-plus. The kid looked good in his NHL debut. Let’s not go crazy, he only played for a period and a half, but there were a lot of good signs in his performance. He was put into a difficult situation, stepping on the ice behind a reeling New Jersey team, and he stood tall. He made 12 saves on 13 shots, including a highlight reel left toe save on, NHL point leader, Steven Stamkos.
Special Teams: A – Besides Kinkaid, this is the only other bright spot for New Jersey tonight. The special teams didn’t have a major outcome on the game, mostly because the Devils were awful 5-on-5, but I must give credit where credit is due. The power play went 1-for-2, and the penalty Kill went 2-for-2; Adam Henrique netted a shorthanded goal.
Instant Insight – This was a must win, and the Devils laid an egg. The offense was listless, the goaltending was soft, and the defense was spotty, at best. The most concerning aspect of this game, though, was the Devils complete lack of resiliency following Thompson’s first goal. The Tampa Bay Lightning are a porous defensive team with fragile confidence; this is not a team that the Devils should have been shut down by for 55 minutes. In a night of negatives, the one positive is Kinkaid. Whether he gets the start Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres remains to be seen, but tonight he has proven that he can indeed play in the NHL.