Third Period Meltdown Dooms Devils


The New Jersey Devils were defeated last night 4-3 in overtime by the rival New York Rangers in what could go down as their worst loss they endure this season.


The Devils lead 3-1 halfway through the third period, but quickly fell apart following a delay of game penalty by Mike Cammalleri, which resulted in the Rangers’ second goal of the night. It also the second power play goal the Devils allowed on the evening.

"“The [Cammalleri] penalty changed the momentum,” Devils head coach Peter DeBoer said. “We need a kill at that point in the game. That’s a critical kill. We don’t get the kill and momentum shifts and we make a bad decision with the puck after that and it’s tied up … If we’re going to give up two power-play goals a night, it’s going to be hard to win.” (Morreale, October 22)"

Mental mistakes weren’t the only problem for the Devils last night. They made a plethora of game-changing errors that ultimately cost them the game in the third period. Marek Zidlicky was most likely at fault for the game-tying goal, as he misfired on a pass to Travis Zajac to clear the puck from the corner of their defensive zone. The puck ended up going straight to Rangers forward Kevin Hayes, and subsequently Rick Nash, who buried Hayes’ rebound to tie the game.

"“I should have put it back in the corner. That’s the easy way,” Zidlicky said. “I tried to pass it. I think it was too hard to pass. It was pretty hard to pass. I should know to put it back in the corner, especially when it was 3-2, a tight game.” (Gulitti, October 22)"

Although Zidlicky was the main culprit, Zajac, whom the pass was intended for, said he could have done a better job bailing out Zidlicky:

"“I can help him out by handling it. I’ve got to handle it. I was ready for it,” said Zajac. (Chere, October 21)"

Jarmoir Jagr, who tallied a goal and an assist in the loss, was not pleased with the meltdown in the third period.

"“It’s the same thing I talked about the last game,” Jagr said. “We’ve got to learn to not make mistakes in our zone. It’s a lot tougher when you have a lead because you kind of play it safe. The other team doesn’t have to worry you’re going to attack then. They just put it in our zone. We’ve got a lot of young guys back there, so we have to learn it. That’s the way I see it.” (Gulitti, October 22)"

The bottom line: it was a bad loss, summed up by Cammalleri:

"“We should close that one out,” Cammalleri said. “I thought we did a lot of really good things. That’s a game we’d like not only to come out with two points, but not let the Rangers grab one. So, we’ll have to look at it.” (Gulitti, October 22)"


Where to begin? The Devils looked well on their way to victory last night, and following the Devils’ goal by Jon Merrill early in the third period to give them a 3-1 advantage, Devils’ fans at Prudential Center were flying high, while Rangers’ fans (which there were A LOT of in Newark last night) looked deeply dejected. But that quickly turned around, following what was, in my opinion, one of the Devils’ worst loses in recent memory.

Last night, I posted this to Twitter:

I firmly stand by that. For those of you that may not recall, the Devils took a 3-2 lead into the final 1:20 of Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Carolina Hurricanes, where they allowed two goals in the final 80 seconds on lost the game 4-3, ending their season.

That was the worst Devils loss I’ve seen, but last night’s ranks right up there with that.

The Devils came into this game as losers of two consecutive games, with the chance to take a important division game, and more importantly, against an arch rival team. And they looked like they were on their way toward achieving that. But poor defense late in the third period spelled their demise, and eventual loss in overtime.

Losing a game that you have no business winning is one thing, you regroup after and move on, much like last week’s loss in Washington. But last night, the Devils outplayed the Rangers for nearly the entire game, and were deserving of a better result.

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But last night’s loss has a much larger meaning than just win-loss record. It was against the Rangers, New Jersey’s biggest rival. A game like that is one that you absolutely have to win, especially when you hold a lead late in the third period.

Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger made a good point last night. He said “The Devils have three rookie defensemen in their lineup every night (Adam Larsson, Damon Severson and Jon Merrill Tuesday night), but it is the veterans who seem to be making the bulk of the mistakes.”

He hit the nail on the head with that one. Bryce Salvador is now a -3 on the season and seems to be on the ice for all of the opposing team’s goals. And as stated earlier, Zidlicky made the ultimate error last night, costing the Devils the lead for good.

Why did Adam Larsson barely play in the third period last night? It’s a question that went unasked and unanswered last night, but barring a legitimate reason, there is no reason to send out veteran players who continue to make mistakes when there are others who can step in and do a better job.

The Devils have a history of blowing leads late in games dating back to last season, and in my opinion, the inability to close out games falls on coaching, not players. Yes, the players are the ones who have to execute, but to repeatedly blow late leads is a testament to poor strategy, and for that, blame falls on Peter DeBoer and his coaching staff.

The end result is that the Devils suffered an ugly, ugly loss last night, and are in desperate need of a win Friday night against Dallas.