Devils @ Kings Recap: Unjdefeated
The Devils stuck to their game plan from their last matchup with the Kings, and it was once again effective.
The New Jersey Devils love to slow a game down. Even at the expense of their own offense, they will consistently frustrate an opponent's ability to get a shot on net. That plan worked as well for them as it has worked for anyone against the Kings this season.
The Devils have reliably shut down the Kings this year. Through almost 125 minutes of play, the Kings have managed just a single goal. Those numbers hold for the Devils' last two games as well, including their 3-0 shutout victory over the Sharks their game prior. Given their ability to make a game's pulse flatline, we're thankful that there are only two matchups against them per year.
It's fairly easy to say that the Kings had their worst period of the season in the first in terms of offensive generation. Through three power plays, they managed just four shots on goal the entire period. Only one of those shots was at even strength. The Devils doubled the Kings' shot total to eight, and they managed two shots on the penalty kill. If that had been how the whole game went, I would have launched myself into the sun. This offensive generation was while the Kings trailed mind you, as the Devils' Tyler Kennedy scored off a possession miscue around the net just over a minute into the game.
The second period did not start out much better for the Kings, and we had to force ourselves to feign excitement when Bobby Farnham was assessed a double minor for high-sticking Nick Shore. The effort on the extended power play was also particularly laughable as the Kings could simply not get a stick on a puck in the homeplate area, even if they managed to maintain zone pressure for any period of time.
It certainly felt like the Devils would again ride their one goal lead into the sunset until the Kings were able to switch things up. Darryl Sutter promoted Kris Versteeg to Kopitar's line so that Jeff Carter could get that 70's band back together. Nick Shore took Trevor Lewis in Versteeg's place, leaving Vincent Lecavalier with Dustin Brown and Dwight King. Things really got started for the Kings when Nick Shore won an offensive zone draw. The Kings held possession and started to get some looks at the net.
The "4th" line had so much zone pressure, in fact, that the Kings were able to change their line out and get Carter on the ice. Carter's line went to work and also generated chances while still maintaining possession. They too pressured Kinkaid so much that Kopitar's line was able to come on while the puck stayed in the zone. Through all of this, the Kings had two full line changes while most Devils players changed once. One player never changed. It's fair to say that the Kings had the Devils ragged at this point, and when the Kings generated a net front scrum for the puck, there wasn't anyone who could get their stick on it to stop Anze Kopitar from scoring.
It was a beautiful sequence for the Kings that certainly earned them a goal. I suggest you go back and watch that sequence and pretend it's the entire game because it pretty much was for the Kings. The goal did not spark an offensive renaissance for the Kings, though it did force the Devils to pick up their pace a bit the rest of the match. The Kings did have a chance in the final minutes of the game, however. Dustin Brown flashed some moves allowing him to keep the puck and ultimately result in Keith Kinkaid sprawled out on the ice. Then Dustin Brown shot the game winner off of the cross bar to the surprise of no one. To overtime they went.
The Devils have also managed to make 3v3 overtime boring. They have a stellar overtime record, which I'm going to guess is generated by rocking their opponents to sleep. The Kings never found themselves in an odd man scenario in the offensive zone, and only got one real quality look at the net. They had just two shots in overtime to the Devils' four. The last shot was John Moore's as he beat Quick struggling to close the gap on the post after sliding across from Moore circling behind the net. Three of Moore's four goals this year are overtime winners, which seems to be the Kings' luck against the Devils this year. Thankfully the Kings managed a point and still have a two point lead in the Pacific Division.
If I had to forcibly extract one positive from the game, it would be the play of Nick Shore. He was a game leader in shot attempt differential, and their looks only improved when Trevor Lewis swapped in for Versteeg. Sutter rewarded him for his effort and faceoff abilities with almost 15 minutes of ice time. That's more than Vincent Lecavalier got (who went down the tunnel at one point, mind you), but it's also more than Tyler Toffoli got. When (not if) Nick Shore starts creating goals from his hard work, then maybe he'll finally get some more recognition and a guaranteed roster spot.