With under a month to go before Martin Brodeur Night at Prudential Center, the Devils traveled to St. Louis to take on Marty’s new team, the Blues. Unfortunately for New Jersey and their fans, it was not a good visit, as the Devils fell 5-2.
News broke to begin the day that Patrik Elias would be out indefinitely after having successful knee surgery earlier today. The Devils’ all-time leading scorer has missed a good majority of the season with various knee problems. Hopefully he gets to make it back, as the 39-year-old’s career is certainly running down and he will not have many more chances to win another Stanley Cup.
The Devils put Keith Kinkaid between the pipes and he would have a considerably bigger load to carry than Cory Schneider had the other night in Minnesota. He made 32 saves on 36 shots. The Devils backup was giving Cory the night off to rest.
The Blues did not have that luxury. They are just as banged up as the Devils are right now and one of those injuries is to starting goaltender Jake Allen. Brian Elliott started for St. Louis, making 22 saves on 24 Devils shots.
In what would become a glaring problem for the Devils all night, the opening goal for St. Louis was a power play goal. Lee Stempniak took a boarding call on Scottie Upshall at 8:39 and the Blues’ power play unit, one of the best in the NHL, made them pay. Patrik Berglund scored at 10:04 from Alexander Steen and Colton Parayko to put the Blues up 1-0.
The Devils would take the lead back before the end of the first period when, at 12:12, Adam Larsson hit Stephen Gionta with a breakout pass that sprung him. Gionta then dropped the puck to Bobby Farnham who wristed one past Elliott to tie the game at one apiece.
They then took over the lead at 14:47 when Stempniak atoned for the boarding call that led to the first St. Louis goal. Larsson fired a shot towards net from the right point and Joseph Blandisi redirected it to Stempniak who buried it behind Elliott to give the Devils a 2-1 lead. For Blandisi, the assist represents his first NHL point.
That would be it for the Devils scoring on the night, as it was all Blues from here.
In the second period, St. Louis tied it up when Upshall scored from Troy Brouwer and Steen. The Blues took the lead when Damon Severson took a borderline boarding call against David Backes (Backes turned away from the hit and the officials immediately gave the call to St. Louis) at 15:21. This would lead to Berglund getting his second power play goal at 17:14 off a tip-in from Alex Pietrangelo and Jori Lehtera. The Blues now led 3-2 and did not look back.
St. Louis doubled up the Devils when Ty Rattie scored his first NHL goal at 2:21 of the third period from Kevin Shattenkirk and Robby Fabbri. The Devils used their coach’s challenge, charging goalie interference. They lost the challenge, as Kinkaid had come too far out of his crease to be protected, and thus gave up their timeout.
And from here everything broke down, discipline-wise for the Devils. First Sergey Kalinin took a hooking call, and then after that power play expired, Larsson went off for tripping. That power play was negated by St. Louis taking a cross checking penalty.
But the big moment came when Farnham was checked legally behind the Devils net and he got up and took out his frustration on Dmitrij Jaskin. He was called for interference, but the Blues came to the aid of their teammate, jumping Farnham. This scrum would lead to Jordin Tootoo fighting Ryan Reaves. Reaves won the fight, but took some extra shots at Tootoo while he was down and hurt, which was a move that Ken Daneyko referred to as dirty on the MSG+2 broadcast. It was also dangerous.
In the end, Farnham and the Blues’ Kyle Brodziak received ten minute misconducts, Farnham got the extra interference five minute major, Tootoo and Reaves each got five for fighting and Brodziak got an extra two minutes for roughing. Out of this, the Blues would actually come out with a power play due to the interference major.
After killing that off, the Devils did try to pull Kinkaid to mount a comeback. They were unsuccessful, as Backes would score an unassisted empty netter to ice the game for St. Louis.
With this loss, the Devils risked falling out of a playoff spot. The Tampa Bay Lightning were facing, and beating, the Colorado Avalanche tonight and with that 4-0 Tampa win, they leapfrogged the Devils for the second wildcard spot.
The good news is, when the Devils travel to Denver to face the Avalanche next (on Thursday), they could be met by Mike Cammalleri. Cammalleri will not play against Colorado, but could practice with the team and play as soon as the Saturday game against Arizona.
No matter what happens, the Devils will need to make up ground. Injuries have caught up to them, but every team deals with them and New Jersey must persevere. Unfortunately, the injuries came at a time when they were making a big swing against the Central Division (probably the deepest division in the NHL) and so it looks even worse.
Hopefully, the Devils can pick up some points and hold their own against what is sure to be an angry and embarrassed Avalanche club on Thursday at the Pepsi Center.