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Game 16 Recap: Devils Still O-fer At Prudential Center

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It seemed like the New Jersey Devils finally woke up tonight. While the defensive play wasn’t great, the team created scoring chances and actually converted them. They scored four goals with a goalie in the net! But home effort would be for nothing. Ilya Kovalchuk‘s failed shootout attempt (more below) would epitomize the Devils season as the team dropped their second game in a row, losing to the Buffalo Sabres, 5-4, in a shootout tonight. The loss extended their home losing streak to seven games.

Kovalchuk vs. Sabres 11:11Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP PhotoWho is this #17, and what have you done with the real Kovalchuk?

The Devils spent $100 million dollars and suffered through public humiliation just to re-sign Kovalchuk, who they believed could be a difference maker. But when push came to shove tonight, the left winger once again fell flat on his face.

Kovalchuk’s heard boos during the third period of tonight’s game, when he had the chance to be the hero. The left-winger broke in on a partial breakaway against Sabres third-string goalie Jhonas Enroth, but sent a shot high over the net. But coach John MacLean would give him a chance to redeem himself. With the Devils down, 2-1, in the shootout and facing a loss, MacLean called on Kovalchuk to keep the Devils in the game. With the game on the line, Kovalchuk lost the puck and didn’t even get a shot off on net

Just like that, Kovalchuk drew the ire of every Devils fan. Through sixteen games, Kovalchuk has three goals and eight points total. When asked if he was frustrated, Kovalchuk replied “I think we all are.”

Kovalchuk needs to find himself – and fast – to start helping this team win.

Derek Roy delivers a win

Roy skated to center ice for his shootout attempt in the fourth period after Jamie Langenbrunner put one past Enroth to knot it up. Calm and collected, Roy collected the puck and broke in on Hedberg. The forward made a beautiful move to bring the puck to his backhand. He fired it past the glove ofJohan Hedberg for the game-winning goal in the shootout.

The Sabres Never Say Die

The Sabres were behind the eight ball three times tonight, and each time they came back to tie the game. The best comeback of the night came in the second period, where the Sabres would take a 2-1 lead in 13 seconds.

Jason Pominville tied the game at one with a goal at 5:22 of the second period. Tim Connolly took a shot from the point that Hedberg stopped, but a rebound went to the slot. Pominville collected the rebound and beat the Devils’ goalie for his first goal of the season.

Roy gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead merely 13 seconds later. Roy received a pass from Thomas Vanekand skated the puck over the blue line. He blasted a slap shot from the low slot that beat Hedberg for Roy’s eighth goal of the season.

The Captain backs up his talk

Langenbrunner has been a subject of fan ire for most of the season. Several fans commented the captain could only talk about improvements and attitude, not display it on the ice. But tonight, Langenbrunner proved those doubters wrong. The Devils captain scored a goal in the second period, was taken out hard into the boards but came back to play, and kept the Devils alive in the shootout.

Not only that, but Langenbrunner showed his leadership after Kovalchuk flubbed his shootout attempt. He skated to Kovalchuk first and made sure he knew the team had his back. That may seem insignificant, but support like that in the locker room is huge. I thought it was a big step for Langenbrunner, and he should quiet the critics.

Continue reading the preview after the jump!

Hedberg vs. Sabres 11:11Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesThe Moose is on the loose

Hedberg stopped 38 shots tonight, keeping the Devils in the game during critical points. He made some mistakes tonight, but he also played very well in relief of an injured Martin Brodeur. He didn’t have a great shootout, and he definitely left a goal or two on the ice he’d want back. But the Devils needed someone to stabilize the net, and Hedberg did not disappoint. While we all want to see Brodeur in the crease, it was comforting to see a capable backup handling the workload.

The Second Line production

The Devils second line looked almost unstoppable tonight. They generated chances, caused turnovers, and forechecked hard. Jason Arnott finished with two goals, and Mattias Tedenby earned his first career NHL point. The Devils need this production and secondary scoring, and they’ve hopefully found the line to provide it.

Miscellaneous

 Andy Greene collected two assists tonight.

Arnott’s two goals tonight was the first time a Devil recorded multiple goals in one game this season. It’s already the second game.

The New Jersey Devils introduced a Devils license plate. I’m not going to lie, I think I want it.

Video Highlight

Next Game:

The Devils will end their three-game homestand Friday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

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