Matt Taormina has a moment that he’ll remember forever, even if it didn’t get the Devils into the wins column.
The rookie defenseman scored his first NHL goal and added an assist in the Devils’ 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. New Jersey outshot the visitors, 43-22, but couldn’t solve goaltender Craig Anderson, who was outstanding with 41 saves.
“It’s not the result that we all want, but it was nice to get the first one in,” Taormina said.
After the Avalanche had built a 2-0 lead in the second period, Taormina’s power-play marker cut the Devils’ deficit in half and snapped New Jersey's 0-for-11 spell on the man advantage. In the third, Ilya Kovalchuk scored for a second straight game to trim the Colorado lead to 3-2 with 11:11 left in regulation.
A frantic final minute included Jason Arnott’s last-second whack at a centering feed near the side of the net. Anderson fended it off, but it was close.
“Real close,” Arnott said. “Jamie (Langenbrunner) never saw me behind him. He kind of intercepted it a little bit thinking I wasn’t behind him. It gave the goalie a little more time to come across. But the goalie played well tonight. He really held them in the game.”
A bright note was the power play, which finished 1-for-4 to end a drought that had lingered since Opening Night.
“We’ve had our chances in a lot of games, we just haven’t been able to put it in,” Taormina said. “It’s not that the power play has been bad or anything, we just haven’t been putting it in the net. We got our chances and it was nice to finally get one on the power play.”
But the Devils also misfired on a key opportunity in the first, when they failed to convert on Cody McLeod’s five-minute major for boarding.
"I thought that five-minute power play and the other power plays, we had some great looks there," head coach John MacLean said. "A couple went off the shaft, we missed a couple of one-timers. The guys that are goal scorers, if you're looking at getting those opportunities, and chances are they'll go in certainly."
McLeod tallied at 11:50 of the first, while Colin White served a double-minor for high-sticking Daniel Winnik. Moments later at 12:12, McLeod boarded Taormina and received a major and a game misconduct.
The Devils (1-3-1) came within inches of scoring with McLeod in the box. First, a Zach Parise redirection dribbled just wide of the right post. Then Jacob Josefson, in his NHL debut, set up Dainius Zubrus for a forehand try that got behind Anderson and skipped across the netmouth, but stayed out. Anderson wound up saving six shots to preserve the 1-0 lead.
"We had some pucks going right through the crease, but it's not going our way right now," Parise said.
We have to stay with that, stay positive, keep playing our game, and things will turn around.- Jason Arnott
In the second, TJ Galiardi swatted in Chris Stewart's rebound at 11:48, and it was 2-0. Kovalchuk set up Taormina’s one-timer that beat Anderson from the point, putting the Devils within striking distance at 14:48.
The Avalanche regained the two-goal lead 4:31 into the third on a Stewart blast past Martin Brodeur from the right circle. Kovalchuk got his second of the season with a wicked wrister by Anderson from the left circle at 8:49. Matt Corrente's assist on the goal was his first NHL point.
Brodeur, who recorded his 111th career shutout at Buffalo on Wednesday, made 19 saves in the loss.
Hot goaltenders have kept the Devils from erupting offensively. They peppered Buffalo’s Ryan Miller with 35 shots on Wednesday, though their lone goal was Kovalchuk’s overtime winner.
The Devils take a fourth crack at their first home win when they host Boston on Saturday.
“If we keep getting the chances that we’re getting, not everybody is going to have great games like the last few goalies we’ve faced,” Brodeur said. “They’ve been unbelievable. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and I think we’re going to be all right, there’s no doubt about that. Momentum – I think you have to score timely goals in a game and it’s been tough for us to do it. We’re getting our chances but we have to start bearing down.”
New Jersey dominated the shots in the first and looked as though they would run away with the game early. They recorded the first 11 of the evening, and held a 17-3 advantage after 20 minutes. The scales tilted the Devils’ way again in the third, when the shots were 16-7.
“It’s really frustrating, but we have to take advantage of those shots,” Kovalchuk said. “He saw everything. I think we needed to create a little bit more traffic in front. Right now, goalies are so good, you can’t beat him if he sees it.”
There’s nothing that Kovalchuk would change in the strategy department.
“We just need to score right now,” said Kovalchuk, who fired a game-high seven shots. “We have to take maybe even more shots, put some pressure on their goalie. Just take shots, take chances. We can’t give up. We have to stick together. We’ve got a great group of guys here. Right now it’s bounces not going our way. We can turn it around, and hopefully the fans are going to be with us.”
Arnott admitted to feeling frustrated – the Devils have just four goals in the last three games – but said the whole team has to stick with it.
“We’re getting a lot of shots, a lot of great opportunities to score,” he said. “It’s a little frustrating. The goaltending’s really good in this League. We really have to bear down on our chances. I think it’d be even more frustrating if we weren’t getting the shots or weren’t getting the chances. We have to stay with that, stay positive, keep playing our game, and things will turn around.”
Josefson saw 15:13 of ice time in his debut.
Josefson enjoys debut Josefson, who was recalled from Albany (AHL) on Thursday, cherished his NHL debut. The 19-year-old was the Devils' first-round pick in 2009. He saw 15:13 of ice time centering Zubrus and David Clarkson, including 2:57 on the power play.
"It was probably the funnest thing I've ever done in my life," he said. "I enjoyed it very much, but it's hard to be really happy after a game when you just lost. I think we played pretty good, had a pretty good game. But we have to score on our opportunities, and I think we will do it tomorrow."
The Stockholm native had his mom and dad in the stands, but wasn't nervous. They traveled from Sweden to see him in Albany and had traveled to New York City for sightseeing when Josefson was called up.
"After warmups, I felt calm," he said. "It was no problem."
He added: "When you're right in the middle of it, you have to be focused and realize it's a game."
DEVILS NOTES Parise was stationed in front of Anderson when Taormina scored, and made sure to grab the puck. "He played really well tonight, had some good offense, moved the puck well. It was good. Good to see. It's always fun to see someone score their first one," Parise said. … The Devils had a full roster of 18 skaters Friday. Injuries and salary cap issues had forced them to play shorthanded in the previous two contests. … Zubrus missed the net on a 2-on-0 breakaway with David Clarkson 2:03 into the second period. … Colorado won the only meeting between the teams last season, 3-1 on Jan. 16. … The Devils entered the game 2-0-1 in their last three home meetings with the Avalanche. Friday's game marked Colorado's first win in New Jersey since Nov. 18, 2001.