As Kyle Palmieri noted after the latest New Jersey Devils loss, they had once put four goals past their own goalies last season against the Anaheim Ducks. So this was nothing new to them. “It happens, it’s a fast game,’ said the team’s leading scorer. On Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs his teammate, defenseman Damon Severson shot the puck past his own netminder. In overtime. Obviously it was unintentional, but it was the final nail in the coffin of a game that saw the Devils rally from a 2-1 deficit after one period and blow a 4-3 lead after two periods.
“It was a good game overall. I mean when you put four goals on the board, most nights you’re probably going to give yourself a chance to win,” said a somber Severson after the game. “That’s a high-octane offense over there, and for the most part I thought we did a good job.”
“We played well enough to win, it just came down to a bad mistake by me at the end. I was just trying to protect the puck and keep it out of harm’s way, but I put it completely accidentally into our goalie,” he explained. “Obviously he wasn’t expecting a shot from his own player. It’s just a bad, bad luck bounce there.”
Earlier this season Palmieri noted that it seemed like the Devils were finding new ways to lose. This loss, in the first game after the NHL’s three-day Christmas Break, dropped New Jersey’s record to 5-8-6 at home this season and 12-19-6 overall. They’ve blown 4-0 leads, lost in the shootout and in overtime, surrendered late, back-breaking goals, and been shutout. And now this.
“Bad breaks happen. Obviously he was trying to make the right play, releasing the pressure and getting the puck behind the net. It’s tough, I thought he did a great job on the penalty kill tonight. He’s a kid that’ll come to the rink ready to work tomorrow,” said Palmieri of Severson.
“He’s not going to hang his head too long; obviously it’s a tough one to swallow. It is what it is, you’re gonna make mistakes, you’re gonna be the hero some nights. It’s about coming in the next day and being ready. As a group we’ll do whatever we need to to support him if he needs lifting up tomorrow,” added Palmieri who had a goal and two assists in the loss.
“He’s been playing in this league long enough and knows that these things happen. He’s a good player who is here for a reason. It’s just a crappy way to end a game.”
The loss was particularly tough because the Devils showed some fight and promise in a tough, back-and-forth game against a pretty good team. And it also came after a 7-1, feel-good win in Chicago right before the Holiday Break. So one step forward, one step backward again in a season that has yet to see the Devils gain any traction.
“Our line was able to capitalize on a couple of good shifts,” Palmieri said. In addition to his own three-point game, linemates Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt also chipped in a goal and two assists each. “I thought, for the most part, we spent more time in our D-zone than we’d like to. We know the firepower they have. We found the back of the net a few times and it feels good to get rewarded like that.”
John Hynes and Taylor Hall were just the first two casualties and there likely will be more if they continue to languish at the bottom of the standings for a second consecutive season. “That’s one of the things about this group that we still have, no matter what the situation is, we stick together,” said Severson, who was consoled by his teammates coming off the ice and waited for the media to come into the locker room so he could answer any questions they had. He could have easily gone to the showers, or start a postgame workout without facing questions for four minutes.
So now the Devils have to regroup again and try to find a way to get on a roll. The next two games/the last two games of 2019 will be Sunday in Ottawa and Tuesday at home against Boston and when they play their first game of 2020 On Jan. 2 that will be game no. 40 of a season that is slipping into another disaster.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.