Oduya's double-minor left the Devils with more questions than answers after Monday's 3-2 loss at Prudential Center.
The Devils had a tough time figuring out why Johnny Oduya was penalized twice for coming to the defense of a fallen teammate.
It turned out to be a key moment in Monday's 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Prudential Center, but left a few Devils scratching their heads as the team slipped to 0-2-0 on the young season.
With the Devils leading 2-1 in the first period on goals from Rob Niedermayer and Travis Zajac, Rangers captain Chris Drury collided knee-on-knee with Paul Martin in the Devils' zone, leaving Martin visibly shaken. Oduya went after Drury, taking him down with 3:42 left in the first.
Drury was assessed a minor for kneeing, but Oduya was slapped with a double-minor for roughing. Ales Kotalik tied the game at 2 on the ensuing Rangers' power play, and New York's Matt Gilroy would pot the go-ahead goal with 2:10 left in the second period.
Martin Brodeur made 23 saves and David Clarkson assisted on both Devils goals. The Devils dropped the first of six regular-season meetings with the Rangers.
HOW THEY SCORED Rob Niedermayer got his first goal as a Devil after Jay Pandolfo dug the puck out of the corner on a hard forecheck and found Niedermayer at the right circle for a wrister over Henrik Lundqvists' catching glove at 1:10 of the first.
"I was right there, and I kind of jumped him," Oduya said of the Drury play. "Obviously, afterward it wasn't the best decision, but I reacted quickly. I thought I would just get a two(-minute) penalty, not a double."
Though Oduya didn't see Drury's knee-on-knee as intentional, he felt it was a potentially dangerous play.
"Coming across like that, that's how guys get hurt," he said.
Zach Parise, who assisted on Zajac's power-play goal, was among those confused by the call.
"I'm not really sure how we ended up (shorthanded)," Parise said. "One (penalty) is one thing, I don't understand how we got a double-minor out of that to be honest. I didn't think that was the right call. If you want to give them two and two, that's fine. I still don't understand how we ended up with the double-minor on that. It's not as if Johnny was dropping his gloves and throwing punches at him or anything. Drury went down and covered his head. I have a hard time understanding (the call)."
Martin said his left leg stiffened up as a result of the hit.
"I had a bad feeling with it for most of the game, but as I started to get going again, it started to feel better," he said.
The play was unfortunate, Martin said, but not intentional.
"He wouldn't have done that on purpose," he said. "I was going one way, and he was trying to slide the other way. I didn't see him stick anything out. He's not that type of player."
Jacques Lemaire said Oduya reacted like any teammate would.
"I was surprised he got four minutes," said the head coach. "I was more upset about the four minutes than anything else. They're doing the hit that could injure the player, and we end up with the extra penalty."
The Devils felt they had a stronger game than Saturday's home-opening loss to Philadelphia, but, Lemaire said, there's still more work to do.
"Yes there was progress," he said. "No, it was not enough. There are a lot of things that have to go well for a team to win. First of all, everyone has to be on the same page. We talked about last game, having long shifts. It was a lot better today. We only had one, and they scored (the third goal) on it. After being on the same page and working together, be sharp. I just feel right now, we lack a little bit of confidence. I can say that because I see the top players, sometimes, they do make a lot of plays. But to get more plays, and more chances, sometimes we miss. They were a little tight; a little tight."
Special teams accounted for three of the four goals in the first period: one for the Devils and two for the Rangers. Niedermayer's first goal as a Devil made it 1-0 just 1:10 into the contest before Michael Del Zotto evened the score on a Rangers' man advantage at 6:31.
New Jersey finished 1-for-6 on the power play, including a 23-second 5-on-3 early in the third period. The Devils' PK allowed two goals on six opportunities, but had to weather 16 minutes of penalties through the game's first 40.
"We got ourselves in some penalty trouble," Parise said. "It seemed like we were killing for the first two periods, and it's tough to get some rhythm there. I thought we did a good job of killing them. But it's tough when you're killing for a lot of the first two periods."
The Devils will be looking for their first win of 2009-10 when they hit the road for their next three games. They visit Tampa Bay on Thursday, Florida on Saturday and Washington next Monday.
"Definitely not the way you want to start," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "You don't want to start 0-2 by any means. I think we've done some good things, I think we're growing. We're making some growing mistakes as far as questionable decisions at some tough times, but I think you're going to have those when you have a whole new lineup. It's something we're going to have to get through pretty quickly: we have a tough road trip coming up here that we need to get some points out of and get going back in the right direction."
Lemaire boiled the loss down to penalties.
"We started the game, everything was fine," he said. "Then we started to take penalties. The type of penalties we got, I don't think that helped to sustain our intensity and the work we put in at the start. That's the reason why our top line played over 20 minutes, which is a lot for forwards, especially the way these guys are playing. They're on the puck all the time, they skate and they don't stop. Twenty minutes is huge.
The coach liked what he saw in Brodeur's second start.
"Much better," Lemaire said. "He was more solid today, there's no doubt. He was good today."
• Niedermayer has settled in on his line with Clarkson and Pandolfo.
"Both of those guys are great to play with," Niedermayer said. "They're always where they supposed to be and they make my job easy. Pando, he made a great play, good on the forecheck and made a good pass."
Niedermayer didn't sign with the team until late in training camp, and had time for only one preseason game. He hasn't missed a beat, though, and saw 27 shifts on Monday for 15:42 of ice time.
"I'm feeling better, for sure," he said. "It was nice to get that week of practice and that one exhibition game."
• Ilkka Pikkarainen made his NHL debut and saw eight shifts for 6:41 of ice time on a line with Rod Pelley and Andrew Peters. He was in the box for hooking when Del Zotto scored the Rangers' first goal and admitted to being nervous in his first game.
"Yeah but in a good way," he said. "I wanted to win so badly."
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1 - 0 NJD
Michael Del Zotto
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