The Devils started their season opener on fire but ultimately went down in flames, refunding a 2-0 lead and losing to the Dallas Stars 4-3 in OT.
After Travis Zajac and Zach Parise gave the home team a two-goal cushion and, along with prize free agent Ilya Kovalchuk, brought the sold out crowd at Prudential Center to its feet, the Stars rallied to send the game to the extra period, clinching the victory on a laser-sighted wrist shot from Loui Eriksson past Martin Brodeur.
Needless to say, it wasn't the start to the season, or John MacLean's head coaching career, that the Devs were looking for. A few points to consider before tomorrow's game in Washington against the Caps:
+ Happy Returns
Along with Kovalchuk, Parise and Brodeur, Jason Arnott received the biggest cheer during the team introductions. He further endeared himself with an absolute bomb from the point to put the Devils up 3-2 in the second period. With Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner manning the points, the second power play unit has an old school look, that’s for sure.
+ First Impressions
A little over seven minutes into the game the Money Line of Parise-Zajac-Kovalchuk had lit the lamp twice on a pair of 2-on-1 breaks off the rush. Shortly after the second goal, Kovalchuk ripped a shot off the post, but it bounced away. Stars bench boss Marc Crawford said after the game that the lucky bounce was the biggest turning point in the game. In the end, it was Dallas' top line that laughed last, accounting for three goals on the night including the game-winner.
The Devils just couldn’t build on the lead. They were outshot for most of the first period and badly outshot (12-5) in the second. Chief among the team's problems were two points noted in the blog's game preview post.
The first Stars goal was a direct result of the Devils' inability to clear the puck from their zone. The third goal was straight off a giveaway by Andy Greene. About a minute after the Greene giveaway the Devils gave up another chance that squirted across Brodeur’s crease. Less than a minute into the third period it should have been 4-3 Dallas, but Eriksson fanned on a perfect set up in the low slot.
This was the Devils’ undoing against the Flyers in last season’s playoffs. It bears watching tomorrow night when the blueliners will get a stiff test from the Washington Capitals.
- Secondary Scoring
With the first line firing early, it didn't seem like this would even matter. On the Parise goal, Lehtonen was definitely not looking at the puck, but kept glancing around to eye Kovalchuk and Zajac even as Parise bore down on him. Against this top line early on, it wasn't good enough to have your head on a swivel, you needed three heads. But the freewheeling start screeched to a halt by the second period.
The Devils had little success at even strength after the first seven minutes and struggled to sustain the forecheck. Even the top line only had success off the rush in the first period (granted, it was a lot of success off the rush). Only the Clarkson-Zubrus-Roslton line really had much success keeping the puck in the offensive zone for any substantial time. In fact, though they didn’t get on the score sheet, they may have been the team’s best line after the first seven minutes. The lack of secondary scoring will be a much bigger issue on the road tomorrow when MacLean can’t control the line matchups.
Notes and Quotes
- For the most part, MacLean and the players sited repeated small mistakes as the deciding factor in tonight's game.
"We turned the puck over at the offensive blue line all night and with their good transition game, they're going to make you pay for that," Parise said. "It's mental mistakes, but we're on the right track. We had a great third period, we just didn't score. When we started chipping it behind their goal line, that's what causes problems. But if you turn the puck over all night, you're causing your own problems."
"All those little mistakes are correctable," MacLean said. "But we need to manage the puck a little better."
- On the young backliners Matt Taormina and Alexander Urbom, MacLean added: "We're going to play them and we're going to go through the learning curve with them." That education will continue tomorrow against a Caps team coming off a 4-2 loss in Atlanta tonight.
- Greene said the seven-man rotation didn't bother the blueliners. "It was good, I thought we worked them in pretty well. There weren't many power plays or penalty kills so that makes it easier."
- Taormina and Henrik Tallinder led the D in ice time with just over 21 minutes. Alexander Urbom was the low man with just under nine.
- Despite the loss, the players are psyched about the team's top line.
"They're all so skilled," Tallinder said. "They just find each other so well on the ice."
- And in case anyone cares, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance tonight.