It wasn't quite the result that the Devils had hoped for in their season opener, but there are still some positives to take out of the 3-0 loss in Pittsburgh.
The first thing to realize about opening night, is that everyone tends to overreact. Had the Devils won, it would have been the same thing, except the other way. It's one game and they played on the road against a very good team. The Devils won't be panicking, they'll be getting ready for another important division tilt against the Islanders tomorrow night.
What Happened: The Devils surrendered two first period goals to the Penguins and despite playing strong hockey for the remaining 40 minutes, were unable to beat Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins iced it with a goal by Craig Adams at the 11:42 mark of the third period. New Jersey was plagued by turnovers in the first period and couldn't respond to the early Penguin goals. Despite some good chances, the Devils were unable to find the back of the net. Adam Henrique was stoned by Fleury on a penalty shot late in the third, it was that kind of night.
Star of the Game: Marc-Andre Fleury. Was he spectacular? Not so much. He did keep the Devils off the board and made some key saves late in the third period. A good start to the season for a goaltender who looked so bad in last year's playoffs.
Goat of the Game: Marek Zidlicky. You have to bury that shot in the second period. Fleury was down on the ice at the other side of the net and he got caught between passing and shooting. With that much of the net wide open and the game still 2-0, that could have been a huge boost. Now, missing a shot isn't really grounds for being named the goat, but Zidlicky wasn't great in the defensive zone either. He was out of position on numerous occasions and even tried to jump into a play at neutral ice, only to pull himself completely out of position and allow the Penguins a scoring chance. The Czech d-man also took the lone Devils minor penalty of the game.
Turning Point: It's tough to pick out a single point where this game turned, but it might have been the first two minutes of the third period. The Devils had a solid second period and looked like they were on their way to making this a one-goal game. The minute that the Penguins were able to stop the Devils from getting a quick goal, the Devils seemed a bit deflated and the Pens were able to net another goal to put it away.
Offense- C-minus - Did they have some chances to score? Yes. Did they capitalize on any of those? No. You have to finish. Scoring chances are great, but they mean nothing if you can't even find a way to score one goal on the night. Props to Fleury, who did his job, but he wasn't really tested much until late in the third period.
Defense- B-plus - Not a terrible night by the defense. Peter Harrold was lost on the 2-on-1 that led to the second Penguins goal, but as a whole the d-corps played well enough that if they Devils could have scored a few, they would have kept them in the game. Anton Volchenkov was very good at times. He seems to have regained a little speed, which allowed him to use his big frame to muscle players off the puck. Adam Larsson had a decent night as well, with no glaring mistakes in his own end, and a couple of strong plays in the offensive zone. Holding the Penguins to 21 total shots is an impressive feat.
Special Teams - B - The power play is going to be a work in progress. Any time you bring in that many new bodies, it's going to take time for everyone to get comfortable and begin to work as a cohesive unit. The power play didn't have a ton of opportunities, a credit to the Penguins for staying out of the box. There is room for improvement and with more time, they will begin to move the puck better and create opportunities. As for the penalty kill, that was a bright spot. In their one opportunity, they stymied the Penguins on the man-advantage. They'll definitely be tested tomorrow night by an Islanders power play that gave the team fits last season.
Goaltending- C-minus - Cory Schneider gave up three goals on 21 shots. While he wasn't awful, he certainly wasn't as sharp as he was in the preseason. It's a tough task to keep the Penguins at bay and though he made some nice saves, the Chuck Kobasew goal was the result of a bad rebound in front, and the Adams goal in the third had to be saved. You can't get beat glove side on a shot like that.
Instant Insight: It certainly wasn't the kind of opening night that the Devils were hoping for, but there were positives to take away. Though the offense didn't score, you saw glimpses from players like Damien Brunner and Andrei Loktionov. With so many new line combinations, it's going to take time for Pete DeBoer to find combinations that work. Defensively, they really limited the Penguins scoring chances after the first period and kept the Devils in the game long enough for them to make a comeback attempt.
The Devils will be right back in action tomorrow against the Islanders for their home opener. We'll have more reaction and analysis from this loss, as well as our pregame primer for tomorrow night's game.