The Devils couldn't protect an early two-goal lead in a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday at the Prudential Center in Newark, where Columbus jumped back into first place in the Metropolitan Division after the Devils grabbed it with a win on Tuesday. Following the game, the Devils talked about how they strayed from their game and couldn't regain their form.
Here are six observations from the loss.
Devils were 'fragile':
The Devils knew a push back was coming at some point from the Blue Jackets. Once it happened, they didn't do enough to stop it. Through the first 20 minutes, the Devils reestablished there game and took a 2-0 lead because of it. Once Columbus got on the board, they didn't stick to what got them a lead in the first place.
"We were fragile. We gave up a goal and strayed a little bit from our game plan," forward Brian Boyle said. "But we can learn something from this. You can’t be as fragile as that. We did come back, we got a third goal, but for the most part, for the majority of play, we didn’t play to our system and our structure and what made us successful in the first period. We got away from that, and that’s a little bit mental and hopefully we learn a lesson.”
Schneider falters in point of strength:
Cory Schneider has been reliable for the Devils nearly every time he has taken the ice this season, but he said he struggled with a couple pucks that got past his arms on Friday. Schneider viewed that as a point of strength throughout the season, but he missed a couple he thought he should have saved.
"Just a theme tonight, with pucks going through me, through my arms, which I think I’ve done a good job of all year," Schneider said. "I know they had some looks, but make them make a perfect shot. Don’t let pucks beat you through the arms."
Hischier OK after high stick:
Devils rookie Nico Hischier had a bloody lip and was looking at a late-night trip to the dentist after taking a high stick in the third period. The play resulted in a four-minute power play for the Devils and a very brief absence for Hischier before he returned. Hynes said the Devils expect Hischier to be available for Saturday's game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
First-period play disappeared:
The Devils controlled the final 40 minutes of Tuesday's 4-1 win over Columbus, and things looked to carry over in the first 20 minutes on Friday. But the minute the puck dropped in the second period, things turned in the Blue Jackets' favor.
The Devils fully expected a pushback at some point from a talented Columbus team. When it happened, they weren't able to adjust and power through it.
"There’s always momentum swings, and tonight we didn’t do a great job of controlling that," forward Taylor Hall said. "At the same time we’re going into the third tied 3-3 and feeling pretty good about our game. Just a couple mistakes wound up in the back of our net, so just time to regroup. I’m sure we’ll have a meeting tomorrow and go over what went wrong. But when we play like that in the first period, we’re pretty close to how we want to play as a team. We’ve just got to play like that for 60."
While the Blue Jackets found another gear, Boyle added that the Devils can't worry about what other teams are going to do. The Devils' success — or lack of it — comes down to what they are doing on the ice.
"We gotta worry about our game and I think you gotta expect the other team’s best every night no matter what. That’s got to be a habit of ours," Boyle said. "We need to worry about us. When you get a lead, you can’t just sit on it. I think it's frustrating, kind of just the way it happened.”
No call on Hall breakaway:
After the Blue Jackets tied the game at 2-2 in the second period, the Devils appeared to have a prime chance to retake the lead. Hall got free on a breakaway and had a clear path to goal. Hall tripped and fell to the ice near the crease, just after Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski appeared to get a piece of Hall's heel with his stick. But Hall said he just fell and didn't question the call, and Hynes said the referee explained that in his view, it was not a trip.
Not dwelling on loss:
The Devils will be right back at it on Saturday night against another divisional opponent when they play the Rangers. Players talked about the importance of quickly shifting gears and moving focus to the next game, rather than dwelling on what could have been.
“You’re not going to win every one against this division," Schneider said. "They’re good teams. We know what we need to fix and that it’s in the room. I don’t think we got outplayed that badly. It was in our hands what happened. So we gotta focus on (Saturday) night.”