The Devils’ current nine game winless streak has been pretty perplexing. They outplayed the Colorado Avalanche (the team that currently stands in last place overall in the entire National Hockey League) for most of the night Thursday at the Pepsi Center in Denver. However, they still found a way to lose, with the Avs scoring with 1:14 left in the game to claim a 3-2 victory.
This is the last extended road trip the Devils will play this season, going from Columbus to Colorado to Arizona this weekend. The Devils, including this game, have dropped six straight games at the Pepsi Center, going back to 2008. But the Avalanche are the NHL’s worst team this year following an off season of chaos and have a -89 goal differential, the worst in the league. In theory, they are a team the Devils can handle. The Devils were going for a season sweep of the Avalanche, hoping to get back in the win column.
New Jersey’s scratches tonight included Michael Cammalleri (injured), Jacob Josefson (injured), Andy Greene (who did not get a chance to practice due to travel issues following rejoining the team after the death of his father), Kevin Rooney (healthy scratch) and Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid tweaked his knee against the Blue Jackets and is day-to-day. Replacing him in the back-up role to Cory Schneider is Ken Appleby, recalled from Albany yesterday. Appleby’s stats in Albany saw him with a 16-11-0-0 record in 27 games, 1,619:40 minutes played, 66 goals against, a 2.44 goals against average, 657 saves, and a .904 save percentage. He is a 21 year-old undrafted rookie from the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League.
With Appleby backing him up, Cory Schneider did get the start for the Devils, making 19 saves on 22 Colorado shots for a .864 save percentage. In goal for the Avs was Calvin Pickard who has taken over the number one spot following injuries and had a 11-21-2 record coming into tonight. Pickard made 25 saves on 27 Devils shots for a .926 save percentage.
Neither team scored on the power play on the evening, with New Jersey going 0-for-1 while Colorado went 0-for-3.
The Devils played a poor first period, whether it was acclimating to the thin air, as MSG play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi speculated or what, they did not look good as they were outshot 10-3. But they got out of the first period unscathed, with the score tied 0-0.
Then the weird stuff began. Nathan MacKinnon scored at the 11:11 mark of the second period from Tyson Barrie and Pickard on just the second Avalanche shot of the second period. New Jersey outshot Colorado 13-2 in the second frame (the Avs tied a season low for shots in a period with two, they also had two shots in a period on October 20 against the Tampa Bay Lightning). The third period would begin with the Devils down 1-0.
But the Devils would tie things just 42 seconds into the third. Taylor Hall skated the puck into the Colorado zone and dropped the puck to Kyle Palmieri, who shot from just inside the blue line. The rebound came out to Ben Lovejoy at the point. He fired and the rebound came back to Hall, who buried it to tie things up at one.
Hall’s goal from Lovejoy broke a 174:51 team scoring drought for the Devils, just a few minutes shy of a team record.
The Devils seemed to be in control since, four minutes in to the third period, Colorado did not have a shot on goal. They finally got their third shot in 24 minutes when Rene Bourque scored from former Montreal Canadien Sven Andrighetto at 4:05. It was just the Avs’ third shot since the start of the second period and amazingly, they had scored on two of them.
The Devils were down again, this time 2-1. But Stefan Noesen would break a personal 15 game goal scoring drought when he scored at 6:13 of the third to tie things at two. It happened when the Devils had a faceoff deep in the Colorado zone. Joe Blandisi (a former draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche) won the draw and Beau Bennett picked the puck up. He skated around the Avalanche net and reversed the puck back to Noesen. Noesen stuffed the puck by Pickard short side to knot things up again.
Things were looking okay until the 18:46 mark of the third. Francois Beauchemin found the back of the Devils net from Blake Comeau to put Colorado up 3-2 with 1:14 left to play. Devils coach John Hynes would blame it on a player trying to stick check instead of playing physical in the waning minutes of a tied game. He did not like the compete level of the team late and the Devils would wind up losing because of that lack of compete.
They pulled Cory with about 52 seconds left, but were not able to get anything going in the Avalanche end. The Avs eventually cleared and the Devils dreams of snapping their losing streak ended. They had lost to a much weaker opponent, someone they should have beaten on paper.
Despite that, they need to put forth a better showing on Saturday when they travel to Glendale, Arizona to take on the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes have been having a rough season, much like the Avalanche. Hopefully, the Devils can get through and end their losing streak. They simply need to be able to compete for the entire sixty minutes, from the opening faceoff to the final buzzer, to win.