April 5, 2016
Buffalo Sabres 3 (34-35-11, 79pts)
New Jersey Devils 1 (37-35-8, 82pts)
Devils Late Comeback Falls Short in Loss to Buffalo
The New Jersey Devils missed opportunities a key factor in their loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.
The Devils outshot the Sabres 19 to 18, but they were not able to capitalize on their scoring chances. Sabres goalie Chad Johnson blocked 18 of 19 shots on goal (95%). Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly (21) scored the first goal of the game 14:12 into the second period, with assists from center Jack Eichel (30) and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (32). At the beginning of the third period, Sabres left winger Johan Larsson (10) scored an unassisted goal 12 seconds into the period. The Devils would get on the board on a power play opportunity, center Jacob Josefson (4) scoring 14:31 into the third period, with assists from center Tyler Kennedy (13) and center Kyle Palmieri (26). After pulling the goalie to gain the man advantage on a potential game tying goal, the Devils would become trapped in their own zone and Sabres rookie sensation Jack Eichel (24) would score the empty netter to end the game.
“Not the effort we’re looking for at all,” says Devils goaltender Cory Schneider. “It’s just not good enough all around. Everyone in the room, so, we’ve got to figure out how to play harder the next two games.”
The Devils failure to take advantage of power play opportunities also played a factor in their defeat, scoring on one of six (17%). In particular, the Devils looked to have trouble completing passes in the power play, which lead to the Sabres knocking the puck out of their zone.
“If you look at the game, it’s pretty obvious that we didn’t have the intensity and effort that we needed to be a competitive team,” says Devils coach John Hynes. “That’s the task now. Why didn’t we have it and how are we going to get it back before we play Tampa?”
This game marked the return of Devils left winger Patrik Elias, who had been out of action since December 19 due to a knee injury. This three game home stand might be Elias’ last as a member of the Devils organization. Elias becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
“I have a lot of time to think about it,” said Elias. “I don’t want to put myself or any team in a situation that I’ve been this year, to be in and out for a long period of time.”
The crowd of 14,773 fans showed up to support the team on Fan Appreciation Week, where the team rewards their fans for their support for the season. Various contests and giveaways went on throughout the game’s intermissions.
The Devils were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday after the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-2, thus ending the Devils season long goal of returning to the playoffs after a three year absence. That count is now at four years. The last time the Devils made the playoffs was in 2012, where they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Los Angeles Kings four games to two.
“You’ve seen what they’re capable of,” says Elias. “I think that in the future that’s all they hope for is to get back in the playoffs. The coaching staff and the management is making sure that that’s the thought process for everyone…”
Devils defenseman David Schlemko, Josefson, and Elias led the team in shots on goal with three each.
With both the Devils and Sabres missing this year’s playoffs, there was on ice frustration. The Devils had a total of 19 hits in the game, with center Sergey Kalinin leading the team with five. Buffalo had a total of 14 hits, with six coming from left winger Marcus Foligno.
The Devils move onto their final two games of the regular season, Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning (45-30-5, 95 pts), and Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs (28-40-11, 67 pts).