Maybe it was exhaustion from playing seven games in 12 days. Maybe it was the letdown from winning five games in a row, and then nearly a sixth, against opponents that included several Stanley Cup contenders. Whatever the reasons may be, the Devils simply ran out of gas against the Panthers Saturday afternoon.
The second and third period did not show the Devils getting dominated in play; rather, they looked unfocused and listless. They showed practically no physicality, their scoring opportunities were minimal, and their forechecking and backchecking were vapid.
The Devils had played four strong periods before the second period on Saturday, losing a hard fought scrap against St. Louis in their previous game (last Thursday). The Blues are one of the Western Conference favorites, and the Devils gave it their all for 65 minutes, but failed to get the victory after a long overdue shootout defeat. Offensively, the Devils clicked for most of the game, but their defense experienced a few breakdowns.
The first Blues goal came with just over a minute left in the first. With a faceoff in the Devils zone, the puck quickly became airborne after the draw and Foster caught it and attempted to clear it. Unfortunately, that clear was straight into one of the oppositions forward’s sticks, and Foster then let the loose puck get caught in his feet after his clearing attempt was denied.
In a scramble for the puck, Foster and Taormina failed to recognize that they had marked the same player, 5’10” Vladimir Sobotka, allowing the 6’2’’, 230 pound power forward Chris Stewart to get underneath both and slip a backhand past Hedberg, tying the game at one.
The turning point in the game came after Elias got a beautiful touch pass from Kovie to put the Devils up 3-2, and the Blues made a goaltending switch, replacing Jaroslav Halak with Brian Elliot. Elliot would act as a catalyst for St. Louis, making some great saves to help them stay alive.
Kovie had two golden opportunities to score in regulation. One came with more than four minutes left in the second, when he found the puck on a one-timer with a huge opening on the left side of the net, but put the puck wide. The next chance came with seven minutes left in the third. Kovie created a turnover on Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo when he was entering the neutral zone, but blasted a clear scoring opportunity on Elliot wide again.
The Blues were able to tie the game on a great deflection by Patrik Berglund. Berglund got behind Mark Fayne and made an outstanding deflection on a high shot from the point that brought the puck from likely going over the crossbar to a bouncing puck a few inches off the ice.