As the New Jersey Devils approach the 20-game mark, the team’s struggles fall under greater scrutiny as valuable points fall by the wayside. The Devils traveled north of the border to face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who won one of their last nine games. But like so many times this season, the Devils couldn’t take advantage of the situation. New Jersey dropped yet another game, losing to the Maple Leafs, 3-1, continuing their horrid start to the season.
Phil Kessel Sinks The Devils
From the drop of the puck, Kessel showed that he would be a force the entire night. He generated some of the better scoring chances, and narrowly missed converting on a powerplay opportunity when he put a puck off the post. But when it mattered most, the former Boston Bruin would bury his opportunity and help defeat the Devils.
The Maple Leafs, who controlled the puck for most of the second period, began a possession in the Devils zone. Rookie Nazem Kadri held the puck along the right point, and found a wide-open Kessel across the ice. The rookie passed the puck through the entire defense and to Kessel at the left circle, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot. The right-winger fired a shot past the pads of Martin Brodeur for his ninth goal of the season and the game-winning goal.
Jonas Gustavsson – No Goals For You!
The Devils faced a golden opportunity tonight, facing an inconsistent Gustavsson instead of Jean-Sebastian Gigure. But the opportunity quickly turned sour, as the Leafs’ goalie came to play tonight. Gustavsson stopped several quality shots tonight, including denying all 12 of the Devils chances in the third period. New Jersey continually tried to bang the puck low on Gustavsson, but the goalie met every challenge with his pads.
Gustavsson finished with 29 saves, allowing one (fluke) goal in the second period. He earned first star honors from the press, and he’s the reason the Maple Leafs controlled the game.
Brodeur and Another Injury Scare
Brodeur, who started his third straight game, was in the zone tonight. The Devils goalie made several great saves, and got beat on some good chances. But as the third period began, a new goalie skated to net for the Devils. Johan Hedberg began the third, and Brodeur took a seat on the bench. Since it wasn’t ineffective play, it had to be an injury. Just like that, the fears of several New Jersey fans spiked from little concern to nervous sweating.
It looked like Brodeur re-injured his elbow during a second period save on Toronto right-winger Mike Brown. After a turnover along the side boards, Mitchell broke in on net. He tried to cut across the front for a stuff attempt, but Brodeur went down to the ice and knocked the puck off of Mitchell’s stick. But as he went down, Brodeur let go of his stick and spun into a curled position. When he got back up to his feet, he slowly picked up the stick. Replays show Brodeur gingerly held the stick and favored his right elbow throughout the rest of the period.
Continue after the jump for the rest of the recap.
Not So Special Teams
The Devils special teams were terrible tonight. The team’s powerplay was ineffective, and the penalty kill allowed great chances and two scores tonight.
Let’s start with the powerplay. The Devils had two opportunities tonight, both which produced one or two quality scoring chances. But once again, the Devils couldn’t convert their opportunities. Too many times they looked unsettled and impatient. That hurt their powerplay, and the team went 0-for-2 tonight. The Devils’ powerplay is now 1-for-36 on the road this season. That number is absolutely pathetic.
But let’s not forget the penalty kill, which didn’t look much better. During the first powerplay chance, the Devils defenseman watched as a rebound caromed into the slot. Three of them couldn’t get to the puck, and Mikhail Grabovski converted on the chance. On the third penalty kill on the night, the team got caught puck watching, and Kris Versteeg found a soft spot in the defense. With no one near him to block the shot, Versteeg had the opportunity to put a beautiful one-timer on net that beat Hedberg.
Tonight, the Devils special teams stunk, and it sunk their effort to win the game.
The Maple Leafs blocked 23 shots tonight. The Devils blocked eight. Quite the discrepancy there.
Dainius Zubrus’ second period goal ended a goal-less drought of 90:14.
Devils’ right-winger David Clarkson invited several kids from his charity, Clarky’s Kids, to the game tonight in Toronto.
The charity helps children with cancer, and is run with help from the Kitchner Rangers, Clarkson’s former team.
The Devils finish their three-game road trip Saturday in St. Louis.