NEWARK, NJ – The New Jersey Devils have not been playing like themselves recently. After a short string of close games, in which the Devils won three out of five, one could say all Hell broke loose for New Jersey Thursday night against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Coach Brent Sutter said after the game he felt bad “for anyone who had to come watch that.” Goaltender Scott Clemmensen used the term “rock bottom.” Captain Jamie Langenbrunner called the debacle a “punch in the face.”
The Thrashers came into the Prudential Center Thursday and posted a 4-0 shutout over the Devils.
Ilya Kovalchuk notched a goal and an assist, and Todd White added two assists.
The game was evenly matched in the beginning, as the Devils and Thrashers ended the first period tied at zero.
Shortly into the game, Brian Rolston broke free of a defender and went in on Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen by himself. Rolston made a quick right-to-left move, but Lehtonen was able to make the stop with his right pad.
It was the best chance the Devils had at scoring all evening.
Lehtonen made 29 saves in his 12th career shutout.
Colby Armstrong began the scoring for the Thrashers 3:03 into the second period.
Clemmensen said the puck hit his left hand, and slipped between his arm and body. Not knowing where the puck was, he leaned back onto the ice to try to prevent it from going into the net.
“I didn’t want to knock it in on net, which I did anyway,” Clemmensen said of the first tally against him.
Kovalchuk scored on a power play, which was something the Devils were not able to do in six attempts, including a five-on-three and a four-minute power play.
Jim Slater scored the third goal for Atlanta in the second period. Slater pushed the puck up the left side of the ice put it past Clemmensen.
Clemmensen’s night was done after the second period. He allowed three goals on 19 shots to the Thrashers. Kevin Weekes replaced Clemmensen in the third period but had equally shaky results.
Weekes could not stop Marty Reasoner just two minutes into the final period, sealing the fate of the Devils.
Coach Sutter mixed up the lines in the third period in an attempt to jump start the offense.
“We’re just not playing well, so anything to just mix it up and spark it up a little bit, and I completely understand,” explained winger Dainius Zubrus.
New Jersey was able to put together a strong power play attempt in the third period, accumulating eight shots on goal during the period, but could not capitalize.
Weekes finished the evening with several strong stops, saving four out of the five shots he faced.
Fans in the stands were generally unmoved by the performance, with the exception of a David Clarkson fight and two bouts between Mike Rupp and Eric Boulton.
The home crowd will have some time to forget this performance by the Devils; the team embarks on a six-game, 11-day road trip Friday morning.
Several members of the team, including Sutter, indicated that getting out on the road together might be the best possible thing to cure the bad play that has plagued New Jersey recently.
“Sometimes when you’re in a little slump like this, its good to just go on the road for a while, and get together and whatever issues we’re having, kind of sort them out amongst each other,” said defenseman Collin White.
The Devils will try to regain their form Saturday in Los Angeles against the Kings.