The New Jersey Devils are first in the NHL in goals allowed average. They have a reputation for slowing games down to plodding paces and eliminating the privilege of a transition game for their opponents. They clog the neutral zone, prevent zone entries, and don't allow much activity near the net. That's how the game played out today, too.
If there was ever a game the Kings would miss the scoring touch of Marian Gaborik, it would be against the suffocating defense of the New Jersey Devils. Five minutes into the first period, Vincent Lecavalier took a hooking penalty and sent New Jersey to the first powerplay of the game. A clean faceoff win got the puck to David Schlemko and he was able to fire a shot on a screened Jhonas Enroth to open the scoring for the game.
The Devils spent the rest of their time locking down the Kings chances at a comeback. They frustrated zone entries, clogged the neutral zone, and they beat Kings to pucks when the puck got dumped in. They placed enough pressure with their forecheck to prevent consistent breakouts, and the end result was no speed in the neutral zone for the Kings. They did a good job of limiting the Kings' best players, and Anze Kopitar finished the
night morning negative on shot attempt differential.
Of course, this was an early game for the Kings, with an equivalent 9:30 AM start time. It was also their third game in four days, though the Devils were the team on a back-to-back. The rest of the game was spent with a lot of almost moments, though not just for the Kings. Every line threatened to score at some point for the Kings, but bodies and stick on stick contact prevented any finishing touches. As for the Devils' scoring efforts, there was an absolute golden chance on an open net that Alec Martinez somehow denied.
Another thing that challenged the Kings was lack of special teams. While they took three penalties, the Devils only gave them one, and it was a questionable call at that. The Kings struggled to get consistent pressure on that power play too, and the league's best powerplay unit was held scoreless.
The frustration of the Kings was palpable in the closing minutes. A timeout in the final minute and an open net on their end certainly gave the Kings some of their best looks of the contest, but a set play for a Drew Doughty one timer was met by the young Keith Kinkaid sliding across, and that was just the way of the game for the Kings.
The division lead for the Kings could dip to just four points after the Sharks play their next game, and the possibility of the Kings losing the division lead is very real. Their next contest is their first meeting with the high-scoring Washington Capitals, where they'll see Justin Williams and Mike Richards for the first time since their departures. It's certain to be a game of many emotions for fans, frustrating goals aside.