The string of bad luck continues for the New Jersey Devils as they fell to the St. Louis Blue 5-2 to drop their fourth straight.
The team had been outscored 14-3 in the three games leading up to tonight and there seems to be no end in sight. Their schedule coming up is very Metropolitan Division-heavy and teams in the Metro just do not lose (those above the Devils anyway – Pittsburgh, Philly, the Rangers, Washington and Columbus). It is a rough stretch, but as the old saying goes: Rome wasn’t built in a day.
However, on to the business of tonight. The Devils sent defenseman Yohann Auvitu down to Albany to work on some things. Although he is an older player, it is best to remember that Auvitu is a first-year NHL player. He needs to adjust to the smaller rink coming over from Europe and he can work those kinks out in the American League. It is not a punishment for him, just the team trying to get in some work for his game.
In his place, Luke Gazdic, the other former Edmonton Oiler the Devils acquired this off-season, was recalled. The Devils are only carrying six defensemen for the time being. Gazdic was brought in to bring some toughness to the lineup. A guy like him adds what coaches like to refer to as “sandpaper” and grit to their teams. With the Devils facing teams like Ottawa and Philadelphia coming up, Gazdic can help with that aspect.
Also back for New Jersey was Pavel Zacha. He had missed the last few weeks after suffering what the team called a “facial laceration” in the Nashville game. The injury actually required extensive dental work which is why he missed the last four or so games.
Healthy scratches for the Devils were Beau Bennett, Jacob Josefson and PA Parenteau. Sitting for St. Louis was Carl Gunnarsson, Dmitrij Jaskin and Ty Rattie. Back in the lineup for the Blues was another former Edmonton Oiler, Nail Yakupov.
The goaltending matchup saw Jake Allen for St. Louis, who made 24 saves on 26 shots. Allen was vulnerable in this game, as he had been pulled in the Blues’ last game against the Predators. The Devils did not take advantage of this vulnerability. Speaking of vulnerable, Cory Schneider was back in for the Devils. He made 26 saves on 30 Blues shots. He has been having a rough go of it of late. It seems nothing has been going right for Cory lately and that feeling would continue tonight.
The Blues are a tough team to play at home, as they are 12-1-3 this season at Scottrade Center. The MSG announcers made a point of mentioning that St. Louis is a hard place to win for visiting teams. In fact, the Devils have not won in St. Louis since 2008.
The Devils got the scoring started when Adam Henrique scored shorthanded at 7:49 of the first period. John Moore had been called for tripping Yakupov, but on the penalty kill, Travis Zajac fed Henrique through the neutral zone. Henrique had to reach for the puck, but was able to get it to his backhand along the way and fired it behind Allen. The Devils had jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead. They would kill the rest of that penalty. On the night, St. Louis was 1-for-4 on the power play while the Devils were 0-for-2.
The Devils would double their lead and seemingly be in control when, at 11:36, Kyle Palmieri deked past the Blues defender at the blue line, passed to Henrique who purposely fired just wide of the far post. The puck bounced off of the end boards right to Miles Wood. He deposited it in the Blues net and the Devils were up 2-0.
But from there, the Blues chipped away and would come back to win it. First, Vernon Fiddler was whistled for hooking at 15:33 of the first period. The Blues converted when Vladimir Tarasenko scored from Jaden Schwartz and Brad Hunt at 17:06. Tarasenko is a dangerous player, as Cory said in the postgame interviews, he is probably the best shooter in the league and he struck here.
In the second period, St. Louis would tie things up. Jori Lehtera scored on a goal that initially looked like Robby Fabbri had gotten it. He got the primary assist while Tarasenko got the secondary.
St. Louis then took the lead and never looked back. First, Henrique and David Perron went off for slashing coincidental minors. With the play four-on-four, things looked okay for New Jersey until a faceoff deep in the Devils’ zone. On the faceoff, Pavel Zacha broke his stick, essentially putting New Jersey down a man and making it a 4-on-3 power play. Sure enough, Tarasenko was able to make a nice pass to Alex Pietrangelo. He potted the puck behind Cory and the Blues had the 3-1 lead. Kevin Shattenkirk had the other assist on that goal.
St. Louis would add to their lead in the third when Yakupov scored at 9:00 from Paul Stastny. That was a weird one that kind of encapsulated the Devils’ last few games. Andy Greene had blocked the shot by Yakupov and the puck kind of lobbed up and over Cory’s glove, landing behind him in the Devils’ net.
Patrik Berglund topped things off at 18:39 into an empty net, unassisted, after Schneider had been pulled for the extra skater. The final score was 5-2 Blues.
New Jersey is 1-7-2 in their last ten now on the road. They will look to try to steal one as they head into Ottawa on Saturday. The Senators have been playing well this season. The Devils will want to grab this game if they can, because after that, they return to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers, head home for the Predators and then play the Flyers and Penguins all before the Christmas break.
None of those teams, Ottawa included, are pushovers. We will see if the Devils have the wherewithal to overcome their losing streak and get back on a winning track, gaining some ground on their tough Metro Division foes.