NEWARK, NJ – Home cooking is not sitting well with the New Jersey Devils.
In what could only be described as a “chippy” game, with six penalties in the first 10 minutes, the Devils lost to the Los Angeles Kings, 3-1, for the second home game in a row.
Head coach Brent Sutter was cryptic after the game, saying he and the coaching staff knew what was stopping the Devils from playing well at home, but told the media, “You’re going to have to talk to the players about that.”
Sutter also said he was disappointed with the team’s effort in the second period.
All three Los Angeles goals were scored in the second, when the Kings out-shot the Devils 13-6.
The two teams were evenly matched in the first period, the Devils barely taking a 13-12 shots-on-goal lead into the break.
New Jersey had the best opportunity to put points on the board three minutes in on the power play. The puck trickled pass Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick into the net during a pile up in the crease.
The goal was reviewed and called back when video showed Dainius Zubrus had kicked the puck past Quick with his right skate.
“I asked the refs and they said whoever was talking to them said it was intentional, and that absolutely cannot be possible because I never saw the puck, I told them that. I didn’t even know I scored a goal until I came to the boards and I saw it on the board,” explained Zubrus.
In the second period, Los Angeles took over. Continuing the aggressive play, in the first 10:31 of the period only 4:46 of it was non-special teams play.
The Kings benefited mightily from the extra skater, as Michal Handzus made a quick pass to Jarret Stoll in the middle of the ice at 10:23. Stoll ripped a shot from near the blue line and past goalie Scott Clemmensen.
Two minutes later, Alexander Frolov made a backwards pass to Patrick O’Sullivan in the left circle. O’Sullivan fired, and the puck deflected off of Anze Kopitar and over Clemmensen’s outstretched left glove.
The third Kings’ goal came on a penalty shot. At 14:37, O’Sullivan was awarded a penalty shot after a pile-up occurred in front of Clemmensen, and defenseman Mike Mottau covered the puck in the crease with his glove.
O’Sullivan took the puck to the left side and fired into the back-right corner of the net behind Clemmensen, who had skated out into the crease to challenge the shot.
“He came so slow, I knew I was going to make the first move and force him to go one way or the other, and ended up getting up over my pad there. He was better,” Clemmensen explained.
All three Kings’ goals were scored within a span of four minutes and 14 seconds, leading the fans in the Prudential Center to boo loudly when the teams went to the locker rooms.
“Tonight we didn’t compete hard enough in the first two periods and didn’t create enough. We need to do a better job of that,” said. Zach Parise.
New Jersey, with renewed intensity, made an admirable comeback attempt in the third period.
With 2:41 gone in the third, Devils’ captain Jamie Langenbrunner, who had been roughed up all game without attention from the referees, defended himself against Derek Armstrong, causing a small fight.
Armstrong dragged Langenbrunner to the ice and threw a final punch while number fifteen landed on his back. A woozy Langenbrunner received seven minutes of penalties (five for fighting, two for slashing), and Armstrong received 17 minutes of time in the box (five for fighting, two for instigating, and a ten-minute game misconduct).
With the crowd reenergized, Zubrus took another chance at the net, and this time there was no disputing his goal.
At 10:41, Zubrus, Brian Rolston and Patrick Elias cycled the puck around the offensive zone, eventually finding Zubrus in the slot. The center fired a one-timer while Parise screened Quick, and the puck went over the left shoulder of the goalie.
“I made a play to Brian and tried to open up in that softer area, and he was able to get it to me but their guy got a stick on it so it took a funny bounce. I guess you could say it was a lucky goal,” said Zubrus.
New Jersey, and the recent history of third-period comebacks, had several more opportunities to tighten the game.
With three minutes left, David Clarkson had a rebound opportunity on the right side of the net while Quick was stuck on the left post, but the bounce hit the right post and trickled out of harm’s way.
One minute and ten seconds later, Langenbrunner and Zubrus had a 2 on 1 advantage in the offensive zone. Zubrus faked a pass and took a shot from directly in front of Quick, and Quick was able to glove down the save.
O’Sullivan took a four-minute high-sticking double minor with 1:06 left in the game, but the Devils’ power play unit was unable to convert, leaving the ice 0-4 on the evening.
Despite the loss, New Jersey’s second at home in the last five games, the Devils received good news on defenseman Colin White. White, who did not play after being hit in the left hand with a shot Friday night in Atlanta, was evaluated during the game.
He is day-to-day with a sore hand, and no allusion to broken bones has been made.
White was replaced in the line up by Jay Leach, whom Sutter referred to as one of the more solid defensemen during the game.
New Jersey has several opportunities in the coming week to fix the home-stand blues. Monday, the hated New York Rangers come to the Prudential Center, and Wednesday the team will be visited by the New York Islanders. Friday, Eastern Conference points leader Boston makes the trip to Newark, and Sunday, the fans are treated to Western Conference leader, the San Jose Sharks.
“You don’t hit the panic button just yet, and you don’t try to reinvent the wheel. We know what works; we know what we need to do for ourselves and our game, what works for us. We need to get back to playing that and bring the compete level up, and we’ll be alright with the Rangers,” said Clemmensen.