Flames Douse Red Hot Devils

The Devils came into snowy Calgary arguably one of the hottest teams in the NHL, having just dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-0 at home to cap off a week where they also dispatched the Chicago Blackhawks on their home ice, taking the season series from the Cup champs. Unfortunately for New Jersey, a long trip out west was not conducive to continuing their winning ways.

Last season, the Devils sub-par season could have its crumbling point placed directly in Calgary, facing the Flames at roughly the same point in the season last year as this – mid-November. The Flames came back to force overtime (and, eventually a shootout win) on the Devils in the late seconds of the game, essentially marking the beginning of the end of Pete DeBoer’s tenure behind the Devils bench and sending the team into a downward spiral.

The Scotiabank Saddledome has been a house of horrors for the Devils over the last few years and that loss is what many pointed to as the turning point in the Devils year – and not for the better.

The 2015-16 Devils are trying to emulate the 2014-15 Flames in being an overachieving group that, while not picked to even qualify for the postseason, could not only make the playoffs, but open some eyes along the way. There is still a long way to go before we see if the Devils have that in them, but tonight could definitely be considered a setback.

The Devils seemed to be in a better position going into this year’s meeting with the Flames and were primed for their fifth victory in six games. It was not to be, as New Jersey fell 3-2. The good news being that they showed the never-say-die attitude that they have demonstrated through this season and were still working hard for coach John Hynes. Time simply ran out on them and a few missed opportunities kept things in Calgary’s favor.

Cory Schneider made the start for the Devils, eventually making 27 saves, while Karri Ramo opposed him on the other end of the rink. He made 18 saves in getting the victory for the Flames. Cory went into the game with the fourth best goals against average in the league, behind only the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist (ranked one), the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak (second) and the Blues’ Jake Allen (third).

Calgary got off to a good start, notching two goals in the first period. TJ Brodie scored at 10:04 from a bad angle with South Jersey native Johnny Gaudreau getting the primary assist. Matt Stajan put the Flames up by two at 13:33 when Schneider misplayed a Calgary dump-in behind his net and the puck bounced back to Stajan, who potted it in the empty cage while Cory scrambled to get back. After twenty minutes, New Jersey found themselves down 2-0, but still had two full periods to play.

Early in the second, Bobby Farnham got his third goal of the season and pulled New Jersey within one at 4:01 when he scored on a goal mouth scramble. Stephen Gionta and Brian O’Neill had the assists. For O’Neill, it was his first NHL point. With the Devils now in striking distance of tying the game, things seemed in hand.

But things would not work out in the Devils’ favor. One minute, eight seconds later, David Jones put the Flames up 3-1 when he took a pass from Joe Colborne in the slot and scored. Calgary’s forecheck was relentless and the Devils had trouble moving the puck out of their zone, resulting in the Flames taking back a two goal lead.

New Jersey would chop that lead back to one when Calgary’s Michael Ferland took an interference call on Bobby Farnham at 6:40. In the ensuing power play, Jordin Tootoo deposited his second of the season behind Ramo when former Flames Mike Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak found him in the slot, where he got a clear shooting lane and fired the puck past the Calgary netminder.

Unfortunately for the Devils, that was it for the scoring. The team took a crucial penalty at 14:19 of the third when Stempniak was called for tripping. This put the Devils back on their heels at an important time in the game. The Devils had a few chances to tie. Kyle Palmieri had a couple of tries but was unable to finish. The Devils pulled Schneider and were able to get the extra attacker on late, but after that, time simply ran out.

While certainly a better effort than last year in the Saddledome, the Devils still could not win in Calgary. It was only the Flames’ third win in regulation this season. It could have been travel, but the Flames are an underachieving team this year that the Devils should have beaten but did not.

The Devils will look to turn things around as they make their way to Edmonton on Friday, November 20. The Oilers are a different team without Connor McDavid, who is out with a broken clavicle, suffered a few weeks ago against the Flyers. New Jersey will be looking to pounce on a weakened opponent as they continue through Western Canada.

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