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Devils Alley: Another Third Period Collapse Hurts New Jersey Against Florida

Eegarip'gjasrg"Play until the final whistle blows."

It's been a saying in sports for years. Don't give up, don't stop playing until the final whistle. But for the New Jersey Devils, last night was an example of what happens when you stop playing after two periods.

New Jersey held a 3-0 lead early in the first period, but then Florida scored four unanswered goals between the second and third period to win 4-3. The Devils only managed to record three shots on goal in the third period, and their combined 12 shots between the final two periods was one less then the 13 they had in the first.

“It’s disappointing,” DeBoer told The Star-Ledger. “I think we stopped playing after the 3-0 lead, so it’s a good lesson learned. We probably got what we deserved at the end.”

But is this pattern of last period collapsing a problem for the Devils? The statistics from the road trip say yes.

Here is a break down of some of the games in November and how many goals the Devils have given up in the third period of play.

11/5/11 against Winnipeg: two goals allowed in third period (up 2-0, win 3-2 in OT)
11/11/11 against Washington: two goals allowed in third period (tied 1-1, lose 3-1)
11/15/11 against Boston: three goals allowed in third period (tied 1-1, lose 4-3)
11/16/11 against Buffalo: two goals allowed in third period (up 3-1, win 5-3)
11/19/11 against Tampa: two goals allowed in third period (up 3-0, win 4-2)
11/21/11 against Florida: two goals allowed in third period (up 3-0, lose 4-3)

The list goes on, but you get the idea: the Devils need to stop giving up goals in the third period.

Fans can't really blame Pete DeBoer for last night's latest collapse. He wanted more then anything to beat his former team on the road, but the players just gave up on him. The highlights show that the Devils failed to show up late in the game, and it proved to be costly.

It's not Martin Brodeur's fault either, although I'm assuming many fans are already blaming him for giving up the goals. Marty made 23 saves on 27 shots, but remember that a majority of the goals came on blown assignments on defense and one came on a short handed breakaway.Brodeur was left defenseless on most of those plays.

We have to look at the defense and point the finger. Adam Larsson did not play a very good game, and despite recording an assist he collapsed when the team needed him most. But it wasn't just Larsson, it was everybody.

Tallinder had two bad clearing attempts that led to Versteeg's second goal in the second period. Rather then try to make another pass, he softly passed it to the point where it was sent back to the net to Versteeg standing open next to Brodeur.

Andy Greene lost his stick on the go-ahead goal, and rather then try to make a play on the puck it almost looked as though he held back and let the Panthers move toward the net. Granted, Larsson should have picked up an extra man, but Greene could have done more on that play.

Finally, the one thing DeBoer needs to fix is Patrik Elias on the powerplay. When Elias runs the point, the Devils have given up three short handed goals. His turnover in the zone with 14 seconds left on the man advantage set the Panthers up on a breakway, which was capped off by Stephen Weiss blowing by Elias to score the tying goal.

Granted, the team was without top defensemen Anton Volchenkov for a majority of the game after he was knocked out by a high check early in the first period, but that doesn't mean the rest of the team should play sub-par. DeBoer needs to set a hard practice and get his team in shape to avoid giving up more third period goals.

You can say it was a successful road trip as the Devils come home 3-2, but there is plenty to work on for the upcoming games. The defense needs to wake up or a move needs to be made to acquire someone else because the unit they have out there isn't getting the job done.

The team's next game will be against Columbus tomorrow night, who are coming off a 4-1 win last night against Calgary. The team did not practice today but will return to the ice tomorrow morning.

Follow Joe on Twitter @jkuchie



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