As the New Jersey Devils were wrapping up their season against the Detroit Red Wings Friday, it was fan appreciation night at the Prudential Center. Even though the Devils have had a long season, they really put a lot of effort into showing their appreciation for the fan base. With the festivities starting outside the arena pre-game, the Devils were honoring their fans throughout the game during the respective commercial and intermission breaks.
Devils' fans would have a bit of a rough start however as just a little over a minute after puck drop, the Detroit Red Wings drew first blood in the season finale. Michael Rasmussen would cut to the slot after a pass from Oskar Sundqvist, and whipped a wrister to the back of the net for his 15th of the year and the early Red Wings 1-0 lead.
Dawson Mercer would help the Devils counterpunch though, just a little under three minutes before the end of the first period. He showed off his soft hands in tight in front of Magnus Hellberg with a nifty move and then a backhander past him for the tying goal. It was Mercer's 17th of the season and very important in keeping New Jersey in the game going into the next two frames.
The back and forth action would continue into the second with both teams getting on the board. Moritz Seider was the next player getting the scoring done however, putting the Devils behind again. He simply just got the puck at the point and whipped a wrister that went off the post and in for his 7th goal on the year and the 2-1 lead with thirteen left in the second.
New Jersey again though wouldn't go away easy and continue to fight by answering with a goal of their own. Nolan Foote who only played in six games prior to this one for the Devils, got his 3rd of the season and brought the game back to even. He got set up in front of the net and deflected Dougie Hamilton's shot down and into the net with just over four minutes left in the second.
Detroit would look to come out fast in the third and take control right away, doing so even quicker than they did in the first, quieting the crowd quickly. Joe Veleno got a hold of the puck with Mackenzie Blackwood turned around in the net and fired the puck into the short half of the cage surprisingly for the goal. He took the energy right out of the crowd with his 8th of the year that gave the Red Wings the lead again early on in the period.
Once again though New Jersey reached down and found a way to tie the game with just under seven minutes in when Fabian Zetterlund scored his 3rd on the season. Zetterlund would receive a drop pass from Nico Hischier and fire it into the net from atop the left circle, over Hellberg's blocker to bring the crowd back into it. He is another one that has only played in so many games this season (14) but should be a bigger part of the Devils roster next year.
Unfortunately for the Devils, this season has been a case of the same song second verse and this one would be no different as New Jersey let this one slip away late. Pius Suter put a backhander on net that got past Blackwood and just snuck past the goal line, giving Detroit the 4-3 lead with just over nine minutes remaining. Initially it seemed like Dougie Hamilton was able to clear the puck from any danger, however a review during a commercial break showed the puck crossing the line.
This forced New Jersey to pull the goalie with a little over two minutes left, that didn't lead to anything other than another Detroit Red Wings goal. Tyler Bertuzzi; who was laid out by Dougie Hamilton just a few moments earlier after beating an icing call and nearly scoring on that chance, completed the job this time around. He netted his 30th of the year after a shot from the top of the right circle towards the empty net and in burying the Devils season with a home loss 5-3.
At least it was good to see the Devils not quit in front of their home crowd, yet it was another game that New Jersey would lose late this time with their star goaltender. So the questions that New Jersey has to face now is do you bring back Lindy Ruff? Who will be the guys the Devils call up to replace guys like P.K. Subban, Tomas Tatar, and Jimmy Vesey? What moves will they make at goaltender? Only time will tell but if I had to guess, there will be quite a few changes.