Devils Winless in Seven with Lackluster Outing versus Predators

Coming off the game in New York against the Rangers, the Devils wanted to build on what was a great performance against a tough opponent. New Jersey put forth a good effort in the game against their rivals, losing only in a shootout. Instead, they seemed flat and out of it in a 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators at the Prudential Center tonight, losing their seventh straight in the process.

To put it bluntly: the Devils played a really ugly game tonight. The Predators came out with a chip on their collective shoulder after the loss they suffered in Nashville where the Devils came back from a 3-0 deficit and ended up winning in overtime. That chip served them well, as they played a complete game, outskating and outworking the Devils all night.

The Preds were actually playing the backend of a back-to-back, having beaten Philadelphia in a shootout last night. The Devils are starting a stretch when they have 30 home games – including 28 after the Christmas break – the most remaining home games in the NHL.

The Devils were sitting Luke Gazdic and Devante Smith-Pelly. Jacob Josefson was still out with an injury. Sitting for the Predators was former Devil Reid Boucher, Petter Granberg and PK Subban was also out with an upper body injury.

Between the pipes, the Devils again looked to Cory Schneider to right the ship. He made 27 saves on 32 Nashville shots, as the Devils were outshot in a game again. With their back-to-back, the Predators went with backup Juuse Saros, who was near-perfect with 27 saves on 28 Devils shots.

For the first period, it was the James Neal show. The Nashville right wing was injured for the game at the Bridgestone Arena, but he made up for lost time, scoring twice on the Devils 1:32 apart in the period. His first came when Taylor Hall lost an edge inside the Nashville zone. Damon Severson was pinching in and got beat leading to a Predators’ 2-on-1. Neal took a nice pass from Viktor Arvidsson and blasted it by Cory to make it 1-0 Preds at 5:43.

He struck again 1:32 later (at 7:15) when he notched his fourteenth, beating Schneider clean with assists from Roman Josi and Arvidsson. And just like that, it was 2-0 Predators.

The Predators had scored two goals on their first four shots of the game. And they did not look back from there.

The Devils did have some chances in the first frame, first when Travis Zajac, Michael Cammalleri and Hall made a nice passing play in the Nashville zone that resulted in Saros stopping Hall. Then, Beau Bennett hit the post on a redirected PA Parenteau shot. Nashville had dodged two bullets and the Devils had seemingly missed their chances to get back into the game.

The Devils did not build on those chances, coming out flat in the second period. At 5:55, Mattias Ekholm ripped a one-timer from the point to make it 3-0. Craig Smith had the lone assist on that goal.

The Devils did begin to apply some pressure late in the period, but the Predators remained on top. Ryan Ellis, a teammate of both Adam Henrique and Taylor Hall in junior with the Windsor Spitfires (a team that won back-to-back Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010) had a chance in the middle part of the second period, hitting the post.

In the comeback win in Nashville, the Devils scored just 55 seconds into the third period. That would not happen tonight. Instead, at 8:12 of the second frame, Filip Forsberg scored his fifth on the power play (Nick Lappin was sitting for slashing) from Josi and Ryan Johansen. This goal essentially came 5-on-3 as Vernon Fiddler was injured blocking a shot and tried to gut it out. That goal made it 4-0.

The Predators would then add a shorthanded goal to make it 5-0. That came while Adam Pardy was off for hooking. Johansen had that goal, from Arvidsson and Ellis.

Then, just as the Pardy penalty was expiring, Andy Greene fired a shot from the point that was tipped in by Sergey Kalinin. Severson had the secondary assist on that goal. New Jersey had avoided the shutout, but it was too little too late.

The Devils will need to regroup awfully fast. The Flyers come in on Thursday to kick off a back-to-back (they get Pittsburgh on Friday as well). This will be one of the rare Metro Division games that the Devils have played this season, also a rare home game as the Devils are set to play 29 of them coming up. With the team now at NHL .500 (at 12-12-7), they will look to rebound with a good effort against another divisional foe.

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