For the first time in nearly two months, coach Lindy Ruff faced the media and lamented mistakes that cost the New Jersey Devils a win.
After two sub-par performances against divisional rivals, the Devils attempt to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season Tuesday night when they host the Dallas Stars.
The Devils are on their second losing streak of the season after blowing two two-goal leads in Monday’s 4-3 loss to the host New York Rangers. New Jersey saw its franchise-record 11-game road winning streak halted when Vitek Vanecek was beaten by Filip Chytil 2:15 into the extra period.
Monday’s loss followed an ugly 6-4 loss to the visiting New York Islanders on Friday and gave the Devils consecutive losses for the first time since opening the season with 5-2 losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 13 and Oct. 15, respectively.
Since those losses, the Devils are 21-3-2 in their past 26 games and seemingly were on their way to another win when Nico Hischier and Dawson Mercer scored in a span of 1:46 to give New Jersey a two-goal lead 4:46 in on Monday.
The Devils had their second two-goal lead when Jack Hughes ran his point streak to a career-high eight games with his 15th goal at 11:05 of the second period. Nearly two minutes later, Hughes was unable to score on a penalty shot and soon the lead was gone when the Devils were reacting slowly defensively as the Rangers scored twice in seven seconds.
“We do need to clean up a couple of things that cost us dearly,” Ruff said. “Those are mistakes that we hadn’t been making. That third period, we settled down, played a good period, had some good opportunities but the second period when you have a 3-1 lead, if you can take care of the puck, you don’t make the mistakes we made you probably win the game.”
Hughes heads into Tuesday with eight goals and five assists during his point streak. He also took seven shots while playing 22:01 as New Jersey’s top line saw more time than usual due to struggles by fourth-liners Alexander Holtz, Yegor Sharangovich and Jesper Boqvist.
“He was a difference maker in a lot of situations,” Ruff said of Hughes, who is up to 34 points so far. “Jack is right up there as one of the top players in the game.”
Also among the top players statistically is Dallas forward Jason Robertson, whose 42 points are third in the NHL behind Edmonton stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Robertson accumulated 34 points (21 goals, 13 assists) during his 18-game point streak but has one assist in his past four contests.
Robertson is coming off a rare quiet performance in Monday’s 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh. He did not take a shot on goal for the second time this season as the Stars took 27 shots on goal and went scoreless on two power plays.
Roope Hintz scored 19 seconds in, but the Stars were unable to secure at least a point when Evgeni Malkin scored with 35 seconds remaining to cap a night where Dallas struggled to finish off a few odd-man rushes.
“I thought there were goals out there,” Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said. “We didn’t execute. Had some two-on-ones, things like that, that probably could have changed the game. But we had a solid road effort.”
–Field Level Media