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Devils Postgame

3 Takeaways: Devils Meltdown in Third, Lose Net-Front Battles in Loss to Penguins

The Devils completely meltdown in the third period, allowing the Penguins to score five goals in the final 20 minutes of a 6-3 defeat.



New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

NEWARK — The New Jersey Devils didn’t just crumble in the third period. They absolutely melted against the Pittsburgh Penguins on home ice.

The Devils forked over another two points to their division rivals on Tuesday night in a game where they controlled 40 minutes of play.

Despite holding a 3-1 lead heading into the third period, the Devils lost all control of the game in the final frame, allowing the Penguins to net five unanswered goals in an inexcusable loss.

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 6-3 loss to the Penguins.

Devils Recap

It was somewhat of a flukey goal, but after bouncing off two players, the Penguins took a 1-0 lead near the midway mark of the first period, a goal scored by Erik Karlsson. Timo Meier, however, blasted a one-timer on the power play in the closing moments of the opening frame, sending the game into its first intermission knotted at one. Keeping their foot on the gas, Curtis Lazar gave the Devils a 2-1 lead in the second period, driving the net and popping the puck over the shoulder of Alex Nedeljkovic. Jesper Bratt later converted on a breakaway chance to give the Devils a two-goal lead heading into the third period.

The system broke down in the third period after Penguins captain Sidney Crosby netted his first of the period, Evgeni Malkin twice, Rickard Rakell redirected the puck past Allen, and Crosby sealed the deal adding an empty net goal.

Allen took the loss making 15 saves on 20 shots.


Failed to Clear

Many asked, but no, Jonas Siegenthaler will not be credited with an assist on the Penguins’ first goal of the game.

Siegenthaler returned to the lineup on Tuesday for the first time since taking an illegal check to the head by New York Rangers forward Matt Rempe on March 11th.

The veteran defenseman’s presence is supposed to be a stabilizing one for the young Devils’ blueline.

Evidently, he had some rust to shake off.

While in a scoreless tie near the midway mark of the first period, the Penguins pushed the puck below New Jersey’s goal line and Siegenthaler promptly recovered it.

From behind Allen’s net, Siegenthaler attempted to clear the puck from the Devils’ zone, however, gave the puck away along the boards to Karlsson who gained a bit of ice and fired a shot off a pair of players and past Allen.

Interim head coach Travis Green has cited immature play from the Devils, and Siegenthaler is certainly supposed to be a solution to that problem.

He wasn’t in this instance that led to the Devils allowing the opposition to score the first goal of the game for the 52nd time in 75 games this season.

“Yeah, I was a little rusty at the beginning,” Siegenthaler admitted. “But then I felt fine. That’s just hockey. You know, I can practice as much as I want but it never feels the same in a game.”

Third Period Meltdown

Through the first 40 minutes of regulation, the Devils absolutely dominated the Penguins.

New Jersey looked as though they had their best chemistry all season, connecting on passes, moving the puck smoothly in transition, setting up the offensive cycle in the Penguins’ end, and dominating in their opponents’ zone.

In fact, through the first 40 minutes of play, the Devils owned a positive 21-12 shot advantage and 18-12 scoring chance differential, according to Natural Stat Trick.

However, in the third period, a veteran Penguins group completely took control of the momentum and dominated the puck, outshooting the Devils 9-5 with a positive 6-3 scoring chance differential in the third period.

The Devils were a completely different team in the final 20 minutes, and it all started after Crosby scored the first third-period goal on a Penguins power play that completely deflated the Devils after a near-perfect penalty kill in the first 40 minutes.

“It’s not easy to explain, especially after the first two periods,” Green stated. “I thought we played almost as perfect as a game as we could have in the first two periods. We really didn’t give them a lot of life. They only had 10-12 shots after two periods. We gave them a little life. We talked in between the second and third about staying with it and not letting up. I don’t think we necessarily let up, but we gave them some life and some power plays. They strike on the power play. And now you’re in a game and I thought that the momentum really shifted. I thought we could have gotten it back on our power play, but we didn’t.”

Lost the Net-Front

One of the Devils’ biggest problems this season remains their play in front of their goaltender.

Allen may have allowed four goals, however, make no mistake that the loss doesn’t rest on the veteran netminder’s shoulders.

The Devils allowed not one, not two, nor three, but four goals from in the slot, below the dots and above the crease in the third period. It started with Crosby, then Malkin redirecting two pucks in high-danger areas, and Rackell scoring in a very similar fashion.

The Devils either lost all of their slot puck battles or left the Penguins uncovered, leading to the third-period collapse.

As the Devils’ playoff hopes float further and further away, if Tuesday night’s tilt with the Penguins was an indication of anything, it’s that the team as currently constructed is certainly not prepared for battle like they need to be in postseason play.

That’s likely why they’ll be watching from home, unlike last year where they were making noise at the dance.

“I’m more disappointed with the end, the last two goals more than the first two. Not the empty-net goal,” Green explained. “But once they made it 3-3, I didn’t think we took charge and they did. We made some mistakes you can’t make at this time of year and they cost you.”

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