Trying to break a three game losing streak, the New Jersey Devils fell 4-3 to the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout in an afternoon matinee played at the First Niagara Center. After a scoreless first period, in which it seemed that the first goal of the game might win it, the ice opened up, especially in the third period.
Jason Pominville opened the scoring in the second period when he lit the lamp fifteen seconds after his teammate Tyler Meyers was whistled for a cross checking minor penalty. Pominville’s eighth goal was the Sabre’s second shorthanded goal of the season.
Steve Bernier answered for the Devils just 2:17 after Pominville’s goal. Bernier took a feed from Ryan Carter, who played for the first time in four games, and buried his sixth goal of the season.
The ice opened up even more in the third period. Adam Henrique registered his fifth goal and the team’s league leading fifth shorthanded goal 1:21 into the period. Pominville answered quickly for the Sabres tying the game at two, and then Jochen Hecht netted his first goal of the season 9:47 into the third period.
Andrei Loktionov would not let the Devils’ losing streak grow to four games, and scored his third goal off of a Stefan Matteau pass with 8:38 to go in the game.
The teams played scoreless the rest of the period and the game went to overtime. The Sabres failed to score on two four on three power plays in overtime, and a shootout was needed to determine the winner.
The Sabres elected to shoot first, and Jason Pominville beat Johan Hedberg glove side. Then, Ilya Kovalchuk blasted a wrist shot off the crossbar. Tyler Ennis put the pressure on the Devils after scoring in the second round of the shootout. In an attempt that Adam Henrique needed to convert on to extend the game, Ryan Miller stopped the puck with his glove.
The Sabres improve to 9-12-1 on the season and extend their winning streak to three games, while the Devils fall to 10-6-5. The Devils outshot the Sabres 31-23 and sit in second place in the Atlantic Division one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are currently playing the Eastern Conference leading Montreal Canadiens.
Some Other Notes:
Carter, Gionta, Bernier Line Reunited
After sitting out for four games with a head injury Ryan Carter returned to the lineup. The third line of Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier, and Ryan Carter was reunited. The line registered one of the team’s three goals. Bernier had the goal and was assisted by Gionta.
Loktionov Continuing to Shine
For the fifth consecutive game, Andrei Loktionov registered a point. Since being traded to the Devils from the Los Angeles Kings, Loktionov has scored three goals and has collected two assists.
Definitely an Edge
I don’t think too many people expected a Devils-Sabres game to have quite an edge to it. David Clarkson and Steve Ott dropped the gloves twenty-seven seconds into the game. Later, Ilya Kovalchuk was checked from behind at the blue line and was shaken up on the play. This could have stemmed from an earlier incident in the first period, in which Patrick Kaleta and Kovalchuk were both whistled for roughing penalties. After overtime concluded, Tyler Ennis took a free shot on Adam Henrique. Ennis was called for a roughing penalty, but was allowed to participate in the shootout. Finally, after Ryan Miller stopped Henrique’s shootout attempt to win the game for the Sabres, he sent some words toward Henrique. I’m not quite sure why since the Sabres are twelfth in the Eastern Conference.
For the second straight game, Bobby Butler had only one shift in the third period. Butler has been playing well, but the Devils have been double shifting top players late in the game trying to get victories.
Entering the game, the Devils were 2-5-2 when not scoring first, as opposed to 8-1-2 when lighting the lamp first. Pominville scored first for the Sabres, and the Devils are now 2-5-3 when not registering the first goal.
With today’s shootout loss, the Devils are now 0-3 in shootouts this season. Last year, the Devils were 12-4 in shootouts. With the loss of Zach Parise, many expected the Devils to have some difficulty in this aspect of the game, but the Devils need to start collecting two points in games that go this far.
The Devils have now won only two of their last nine games. The struggling team will conclude their road trip on Monday when they face-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs.