The Devils had veteran center Patrik Elias in the lineup for the first time this season on Wednesday night in their 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Prudential Center.
Elias, who has been with the Devils since 1995, missed the first 20 games of this season due to a right knee injury.
Elias had a productive night, as he completed 20 shifts and played 14 minutes and 50 seconds.
Elias said of how he felt out there and the game, “Not bad physically, obviously disappointing with the loss. We didn’t come out really hard the first 20 minutes, Schneids (goalie Cory Schneider) kept us in there, you know, we tried to get back in the second and third, but you see if you don’t go for 60 minutes, you’re not going to get points.”
On how close he is to being 100 percent, Elias said, “I was fine physically, honestly. It’s just with the puck, the poise, the patience, a couple of times on the power play, I still don’t feel as confident as I should, and that’s going to come with playing more games and getting the timing down and playing the game better.”
Devils Head Coach John Hynes said of Elias, “I thought it was a good first game for Patrik to come back and that he looked good, he looked quick. I thought he was really smart the way he managed his shifts, he didn’t overextend himself, got a little bit of special teams action, strong work ethic. For being off that long and putting the time he put in, he looked pretty good tonight.”
The Blue Jackets got the scoring started in the first period, when William Karlsson scored 8:52 into the game. Columbus dominated the opening frame, as they outshot the Devils, 14-4.
Karlsson shot it from the side off of Schneider, who said of the play, “It hit me in the thumb or something like that. I reached back and it hit me in the blocker, so I didn’t really see it, to be honest. I was just sort of in desperation mode, so I was fortunate to get a piece of that one.”
The Devils returned the favor in the second period, as they poured in 14 shots to six for Columbus.
Adam Henrique tied it for the Devils 3:33 into the second period. It was his team-leading 10th goal of the season.
Near the end of the second, Columbus got some pressure in the Devils’ zone. Devils goalie Cory Schneider made possibly the save of the night, as he threw his legs up in the air to stop a shot from the right side after he ended up on the ice defending a prior shot.
After the big Schneider save, the Blue Jackets kept it in the zone, and Matt Calvert got one by him to make it 2-1 with just 1:24 left in the second period.
Schneider said of the sequence, “It was tough that we played such a great period, and they just had that one push there at the end. They hemmed us in for a few minutes, and they got rewarded for their hard work. It bounced right to their guy in the crease, and he tucks it in. It just seemed like we couldn’t get that bounce tonight, but again, I like the way we responded after the first, and we have to make sure we play more like we did in the second and third than we did in the first.”
The Devils looked like they tied it with 11:32 left in the third period, when they dug the puck out of the corner and got it to Henrique coming down the center of the ice.
It looked like Henrique had a goal, but a penalty had been called near the blue line, and the Blue Jackets touched the puck at some point in the scramble. When that happened, the play was called dead.
On if he thought it was a goal, Henrique said, “I had no clue what was going on. I thought it was good, but I guess not, they reviewed it and that was that.”
Henrique said of being aware that a penalty was called on Columbus, “I knew they were going to have a penalty, but nobody heard a whistle or anything. To score a goal on a play like that, I didn’t think it was reviewable. They want more goals, it is what it is, we’ll put it behind us and move forward.”
Hynes said of the explanation he received on the disallowed goal, “The referee just said they had touched it and hit it into the corner…I have no more comment on the referee or that decision.” Hynes added later that he never heard a whistle.
Elias said of what he saw, “I think it’s just that there was a battle by the blue line and they got hold of the puck, but I don’t think they had full control of it, and I think that’s what the rule book says, so…but we kept pushing after that and a couple of good chances, but didn’t find the way in.”
Henrique said of how frustrating it is, “Yeah, it’s tough, I didn’t see it, so I don’t know what the call was, with review or if there was a whistle or what happened, but we certainly thought we had it tied up.”
On how deflating it was to have that goal taken away, Henrique said, “I thought we did a good job just pushing back, you know, we had pressure the latter half of the period after the disallowed goal.”
Hynes said of what went wrong with the game, “I just think the puck didn’t get in the net for us. We got off to a little bit of a sluggish start, Cory (Schneider) played great, kept us right in there.I thought as the game wore on, we played really well, we had good opportunities, limited their shot totals, had opportunities to score numerous times, hit three pipes, puck didn’t get in for us. I had no problem with our team’s effort in the second and third periods. I thought we made a good, strong push. Unfortunately, the puck didn’t get in for us.”
This was the second time Columbus beat the Devils in New Jersey this season, with the first one a 3-1 win on October 27. Columbus is playing good hockey under new head coach, John Tortorella. They are 9-14-0, with 18 points, and are definitely in the playoff chase.
The Devils (11-9-1, 23 points) have hit a bit of a rough patch, as they have now lost three of their last four games. They lost two of three on their tour of western Canada, as they lost in Calgary and Edmonton and beat Vancouver.
They now face the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens, in a home-and-home. They will play the Canadiens Friday night in New Jersey and Saturday night in Montreal. The Canadiens are 17-4-2, with 36 points and beat the Rangers, 5-1, on Wednesday night.
Elias said of facing Montreal, “We have one of the best teams coming for a back-to-back now, and those games are always fun. The guys always responded well to the challenge. I’m sure we’ll do our best and help Schneids (Schneider) more than we did tonight.”
Henrique said, “We have to bring our best game, you know back-to-back games against one of the top teams in the league. Every time we’ve done that this year, we’ve stepped up to the plate, so got to answer again.”
Henrique was referring to the fact the Devils have beaten the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks twice, the Rangers, and the Penguins this season.
Hynes said, “It’ll be great, it’ll be exciting. I think we have one of the better teams in the conference coming in, and home-and-home. We need to take a day here and just analyze what happened here tonight, learn from it, and then get a day tomorrow, make sure we’re ready to play here on Friday. It should be a good series.”