Devils celebrate Zubrus' goal that made it 1-0 in the second period.
After the Devils had come up empty for the fifth time in this young season, head coach John MacLean got right to the point. He didn’t think his team was on the same page in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.
“It’s pretty simple that we had a couple lines that battled the whole game, and we had some passengers,” MacLean said.
Dainius Zubrus had the lone goal for the Devils, who took a 1-0 lead before allowing four unanswered markers in the second period.
Jordan Caron scored his first NHL goal for Boston, which also received tallies from Michael Ryder, Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic. Eleven different Bruins recorded points as Boston (2-1-0) played its first game in six days. They opened the season in Prague with two games against Phoenix.
But the changes didn’t jumpstart the Devils, who have seven goals in five games since scoring three on Opening Night. New Jersey (1-4-1) remained winless in four home games, and will play seven of its next eight on the road, beginning Thursday in Montreal.
“Everybody thinks we’re going all offense, but you know what, our all offense is not working,” said Martin Brodeur, who faced 27 shots in the final 40 minutes and finished the night with 31 saves. “I think it’s get it back to playing a solid defensive game and you know what, we’ll get more opportunities. I think the past is a good thing to look at, because we know that when we had solid defensive teams, usually we had a really good offensive team. We have to get back to playing smart hockey.”
You can yell and scream and get all upset, or you can take a deep look within and figure it out. I think all of us feel that same way.- Jamie Langenbrunner
With the game scoreless late in the first period, the Devils fumbled away 1:20 of a two-man advantage. Forty-two seconds of power-play time carried over to the start of the second, when Kovalchuk was robbed by Tim Thomas on a breakaway 33 seconds in. Thomas had 31 saves and was named First Star.
This wasn’t the start to the season that Kovalchuk envisioned.
“Horrible,” he said. “We’ve got one win in six games. I don’t think that’s what we were looking for. But no one’s going to feel bad for us. Every team that’s going to play against us is going to play their best because they know we’ve got a good team. We just need to play together for each other.”
MacLean spoke to the team in the dressing room after the game, and captain Jamie Langenbrunner hopes the two-time defending Atlantic Division champions can turn the corner.
“He expects more of us,” Langenbrunner said. “A lot of what I said is what he said there. You can yell and scream and get all upset or you can take a deep look within and figure it out. I think all of us feel that same way.”
The Devils will have an off-day Sunday before getting back to practice on Monday. Langenbrunner thinks the time off between games can be used to make some important fixes.
“For us, I guess, this break couldn’t come at a better time as far as having a few days without a game and a chance to get ourselves going in the right direction and playing on the same page. We’re kind of all over the map,” said the captain.
Brodeur agreed the team needs the next few days to regroup. Their compacted schedule to start the year has taken a toll.
Langenbrunner battles for space in front of the net.
“I think they’re big because you waste a lot of energy losing,” Brodeur said. “We play a lot of games, we’ve played six games in 10 nights. But when you don’t win, it drags on your mind. Physically and mentally it’s tough. For us to get a break, and after that, going on the road, dealing with our team and getting ourselves better acquainted because there’s a lot of new faces, I think that will be a benefit to us.”
The Devils don't see it as one player having to bring his "A" game. It has to be a group effort.
"We just need to look in the mirror and think about what we can do better for the team," Kovalchuk said. "It’s so easy to point to somebody and say, ‘He’s the reason or he’s the reason.’ We’ve got a couple of days: we’ve got a day off tomorrow, then Monday we have to show up for work and start building that chemistry."
One of the new-look lines put the Devils ahead when Zubrus opened the scoring in the second. Andy Greene’s shot from the point was deflected in front by Parise, but Zubrus battled for the loose puck to scoop his first of the year past Thomas at 3:45.
Caron tied it for the Bruins 1:53 later, when he was left alone in front to cash in on Johnny Boychuk’s rebound. Moments before, Brodeur made an outstanding stop on Zdeno Chara cutting in from the left circle. New Jersey couldn't clear the rebound, however, and Boychuk kept the puck in for a shot from the right point.
Ryder made it 2-0 at 10:44 by depositing a Tyler Seguin pass into the net from the slot. Thornton gave Boston a two-goal lead from the right circle off a Gregory Campbell feed from behind the net at 16:43. Lucic got behind the Devils’ defense to bury David Krecji’s set-up at 18:09 of the second.
MacLean tweaks lines
For the first time since the start of training camp, Kovalchuk wasn't on the right side of Parise and Zajac. MacLean explained his thinking after the game.
"I just wanted to see if we could get some energy and get things going," he said. "It worked for one of the lines. It was just one line that we changed. (Patrik) Elias was with Jason (Arnott) and Jamie and I switched Zubie and Kovy. I just wanted to see if we could get something out of that line (Parise-Zajac-Zubrus). I had been thinking about it. I thought that line played very well. Zubie, Travis and Zach played really hard. They battled the whole game. I thought that line looked good."
Second period stumbles The middle frame has been a stumbling block for the Devils in the early going of 2010-11. They have been outscored 12-3 in second periods this season. On Saturday, all four Boston goals came in the second.
"That was a tough one," Brodeur said. "I think they had a lot of quality chances. They had a lot of puck possession time too and that created some of the chances they got. I don’t know. It’s just one of these things. We got to puck watching a lot in our zone. Everybody’s moving up with the play, they left guys behind and they were able to make a couple of good plays. Guys entering the zone, cutting through, having big holes in the middle of our slot – that’s not the way we want to play. I’ll make a couple of saves, the D will make a couple of plays, but you just can’t go on and on having these opportunities against you all the time."
With the score 1-1 in the second, Zajac ripped a shot off the left post at 7:11. … Adam Mair's scoring chance was reviewed with 28.9 seconds to go in the second. He followed up his own rebound with a shot that Thomas reached back toward the goal line to stop with his catching glove. Referees waved it off, and video replay upheld the ruling on the ice. … The Devils finished 0-for-4 on the power play, but were a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.