The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings experienced disappointing results in different ways Tuesday night.
But the urgency of a playoff race doesn’t allow either team much time to lament what could have been.
The Devils and Kings will each be looking to bounce back Thursday night, when New Jersey hosts Los Angeles in a battle of postseason contenders in Newark, N.J.
Both teams had brief winning streaks halted Tuesday night. The Devils never led in a 5-2 loss to the visiting Montreal Canadiens while the Kings opened a five-game road trip by falling 2-1 to the Minnesota Wild.
With his team dealing with a challenging yet routine set of late-season challenges, New Jersey head coach Lindy Ruff wasn’t surprised to see the Devils performing at something less than their best Tuesday. New Jersey, which won its previous two games by a combined margin of 9-4, outshot the Canadiens 40-18 but couldn’t recover from Montreal scoring a pair of goals in a 73-second span early in the middle period.
New Jersey played five games in a nine-day span that ended Sunday, when the Devils beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 in Newark a little more than 24 hours after completing a four-game road trip with a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils are also dealing with an illness running through the locker room as well as the absence of goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who was injured during the morning skate Tuesday.
“We gave up an abnormal amount of good chances,” Ruff said. “It just looked like fatigue. It looked like the team was flat this morning. We played a lot of hockey. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses.”
“We’ve had a couple of guys that have played through illness. We need to freshen the team up and focus on the next game.”
The Devils’ solid standing in the Eastern Conference playoff race — five points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division race but 15 points clear of the Panthers, the second wild card — gives them a larger margin for error than the Kings, who had a four-game winning streak snapped Tuesday.
The Kings are two points behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division but just one point ahead of the Seattle Kraken and Edmonton Oilers, who are tied for third place. Los Angeles is four points clear of the Wild, who occupy the second wild-card spot.
The Kings outshot the Wild 34-20 Tuesday but were blanked until Anze Kopitar scored with 21 seconds left and goalie Pheonix Copley was pulled for the extra attacker.
“We played hard, we created a number of chances,” Kings head coach Todd McLellan said, “We just got to find a way to convert, and some nights it doesn’t go your way.
“I didn’t think we had a lot of passengers. We had everybody engaged in the game, so we’ll chalk it up, we’ll move on and try to recover for the next one.”
–Field Level Media