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Devils Postgame

Devils Takeaways: Familair Defensive Lapses Cost Devils in 3-2 Loss to Canadiens

Simon Nemec and John Marino struggle in their own zone while on the ice for all three of the Canadiens’ goals.



New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Timo Meier’s return to the lineup wasn’t enough to propel the New Jersey Devils back into the win column.

The Devils dropped a discouraging loss to the Montreal Canadiens in regulation after clawing their way back into a game they were trailing.

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 3-2 regulation loss to the Habs.

Devils Recap

The Devils are back on home ice, so they were bound to give up the first goal, right? Right. Habs forward Juraj Salfkovsky opened the scoring for the Canadiens, finishing a nifty pass from Cole Caufield to give Montreal the 1-0 lead in the first period. The Canadiens maintained their one-goal lead and then added to it in the second period after Joshua Roy converted on a 2-on-1 advantage. Fortunately, the Devils’ fortunes changed on the power play in the third period. Luke Hughes and Alexander Holtz scored a goal each on the man advantage 50 seconds apart. Yet, with the clock winding down in the third period, the Devils gave up a late goal that helped the Canadiens collect two points in regulation.

Nico Daws put forth another quality despite the loss, making 22 saves on 25 shots.


Egregious Errors

The Devils have been bad defensively but Wednesday night’s low-event hockey game really showcased some poor defensive play.

Slafkovsky’s first-period goal was a direct result of poor, sloppy defense, unfortunately at the hands of Dawson Mercer. Daws handled the puck in the trapezoid and moved the puck behind his own net to Mercer. Lazy on the play, Caufield stole the puck off the Devils forward’s stick, found Slafkovsky in the slot, and the 19-year-old forward made no mistake to give Montreal the 1-0 lead.

Things didn’t get much better in the second period. Unmotivated and uninspired, the Devils allowed Montreal to close in on the offensive zone with a 2-on-1 advantage. Simon Nemec was the one defenseman back to defend… until he wasn’t. Sean Monahan carried the puck over the Devils’ blue line and Nemec stayed with the Habs forward for a moment. That was until he backed off to try and cover the trailing forward, however, lost him in the process allowing Roy to deposit his first career NHL goal.

The Devils ultimately shot themselves in the foot late in the third period when they lost the lead with about 4.5 minutes remaining in the game. New Jersey was unable to box out their opposition and clear Daws’ crease. As a result, Monahan was able to slide the rebound over to Caufield who deposited the puck in an empty net.

At Least the Power Play Drought is Over

If there was one thing the Devils could hang their hat on this season, it was the power play. However, the Devils’ man advantage was underwhelming to say the least coming into Wednesday night. Over the Devils’ last five games, they were unable to score on 12 attempts in that span.

Things didn’t start well on Wednesday for the Devils’ power play, either. To his credit, Montembault manned Montreal’s net quite well through the first 40 minutes of the game. Still, the Devils were unable to convert, only creating four scoring chances over their first two power plays, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Things changed, however, when the Devils were granted a four-minute power play after Nick Suzuki’s high-stick drew blood on Kevin Bahl and was determined a double minor.

The Devils kept it simple on both power-play goals that were scored within 50 seconds of each other. On both man advantages, the Devils created traffic at the top of Montembault’s crease making it difficult for him to track pucks. After some puck circulation around the perimeter of the offensive zone, both Hughes and Holtz let shots rip that found twine through traffic.

Previous to the two power-play goals, Montembault saved 3.33 goals above expected. The Devils were very much getting goalied in the offensive zone. However, the man advantage brought the Devils back into the fight, breaking a five-game goalless drought.

Tough Night for Marino-Nemec Pair

Nemec has been a revelation for the Devils this season. However, Wednesday night’s game was a struggle for the Devils’ rookie.

Even worse? Veteran defenseman John Marino struggled just as much as the Nemec as the former continues to decline from a strong 2023-24.

Marino and Nemec’s 40.9 CF% suggests that the Devils were chasing the puck far more than possessing it when head coach Lindy Ruff deployed the duo. They often lost their puck battles, were caught out of position, and struggled to clear the puck from high-danger scoring chances pretty much all night.

Marino and Nemec aren’t an ideal dup. However, as a result of so many injuries, the most recent to Brendan Smith, Nemec was playing on his offside against the Canadiens with Marino on his left.

The result ended in the Canadiens scoring all three of their goals with the defense duo on the ice.

There’s a chance we don’t see that pair of defensemen back together for a little while after this one.

Quick Shifts

  • It was an encouraging return for Meier who skated for 20:41, registering an assist and four shots on net.
  • Michael McLeod redeemed himself from New Jersey’s previous tilt winning 10/13 draws in the faceoff dot.
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