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Devils Postgame

3 Takeaways: Sloppy Mistakes Cost Devils in Loss to Sabres

Tage Thompson nets four in the final 40 minutes, negating the Devils’ dominant first period.



New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

One night after the out-of-town scoreboard went well for the New Jersey Devils, they faced the Buffalo Sabres on the road.

All three of the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and Detroit Red Wings lost in regulation on Thursday, allowing the Devils an opportunity to pull within three points of the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference, or four points out of third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Certainly, Friday night’s tilt was crucial.

Unfortunately, the Devils couldn’t take advantage.

A strong start fizzled out in the final 40 minutes and the Devils squandered the opportunity to pick up a huge two points.

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 4-2 loss to the Sabres on Friday night.

Devils Recap

The Devils had an excellent first period, opening the scoring and doubling their lead in the first period on goals by Max Willman and Jesper Bratt. However, the Sabres’ deficit was erased in the second period on the stick of Tage Thompson alone who scored twice in the middle frame. Thompson completed a hat-trick and even netted a fourth goal with the Devils’ net empty late in the third period.

Jake Allen made 31 saves on 34 shots in the loss.


Dominant Start

The Devils potentially played the best first period they’ve played all season on Friday in Buffalo.

Certainly, they were motivated by what was at stake regarding their position in the standings.

The Devils got off to a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes of regulation thanks to Willman and Bratt. However, it wasn’t just the goals that were encouraging about the Devils’ first period of play.

New Jersey played very well in all three zones of the ice, limiting Buffalo’s scoring chances, winning their puck battles, and then moving the puck up ice to the offensive zone.

The Devils had just one blip on the radar in the final moments of the first period. As the clock was winding down, Buffalo pressured the Devils in their end, however, Allen came up big with consecutive saves to keep the Sabres off the scoresheet.

Left the Door Open

The Devils’ final 40 minutes didn’t look at all like their first period.

In a very uncharacteristic move by Allen, Thompson fired a very saveable puck on goal and although the veteran netminder got a piece of the puck, it ultimately wasn’t enough. That was the first step forward in the Sabres climbing back into the contest.

Later in the middle frame, Thompson beat Allen again. However, this time, it wasn’t Allen’s fault.

The Sabres dumped the puck from their zone to the Devils’ zone, but just enough so that icing was waived off. Kevin Bahl in stride picked the puck up and made his way around Allen’s net.

Instead of pushing the puck forward like they did in the opening 20 minutes, Bahl instead decided to blindly drop the puck behind him, although no one was there to pick up the puck. Despite John Marino’s best efforts to recover the puck, it was just out of his reach.

As a result, Tuch recovered the loose rubber and fed a streaking Thompson in the slot who tied the game.

The third period felt even worse than the second. The Devils at least matched the Sabres’ effort with the puck in the middle frame, however, they didn’t so much in the third period.

Buffalo outshot the Devils 17-7 in the final 20 minutes of the contest, allowing Thompson to register a hat-trick and an empty net fourth goal of the game.

It was a sloppy final frame for the Devils who couldn’t connect on passes and maintain puck possession.

The small mistakes in the last two periods had big consequences that the Devils couldn’t afford and they ultimately suffered because of it.

Spectacular in All But One

It was a weird night in net for Jake Allen.

He ended the night making -0.1 saves above expected according to MoneyPuck. Still, he had a solid .912 SV%.

It checks out when you think back to the Devils’ second period. As mentioned earlier, the first of four goals Thompson scored on Friday deflected off Allen and fell over the goal line to kick off Buffalo’s comeback.

Despite the blunder, Allen made a plethora of big stops to keep the game close, especially in the third period when it seemed like he was down and out of the play.

Still, allowing the initial goal to Thompson proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s an uncharacteristic thing for Allen to do in his tenure with the Devils thus far, but he did it on Friday.

It wasn’t why they lost, but the Devils might at least steal a point in this one if they get to overtime had Allen not made that initial mistake.

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