The Devils must now prove that their historic winning streak was no accident Politi


They created an atmosphere on that random weekend night in late November that looked more like the Stanley Cup Finals, chanting “Let’s get started, Devils!” And they swear by the rulers until their throats become hard and equal Throw beer bottles on the ice to protest the unimaginable string of calls made against the home team.


And finally, demons Fans watched the puck float to the ice for the last time as time expired on Wednesday night. Maybe they can appreciate the wild hockey game they just watched once they get to the exits of Prudential Center. Perhaps, given the controversy and disappointment, it might take a few days to sink in.

The Devils lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs, by a score of 2-1, ending a 13-game winning streak that stood as the best in franchise history and topped all but six streaks in long NHL history. Somehow, given the circumstances, their first loss in over a month was even more impressive than the winning streak that preceded it.

This may seem like an exaggeration. But when a team has three goals disallowed in the same game — each goal a little more controversial than the last — and still responds with an angry finish that makes an equalizing goal seem like an inevitability, that speaks to the character of the team that can’t. measured on the stats sheet.

Or put it more succinctly: if you don’t think The demons were real Before you watched this and you still didn’t When the last horn sounded, well, you’re just trolling.

“I’ve seen teams shrink by one (disallowed) goal, let alone three,” said defender Brendan Smith. “We kept coming. I’m proud we kept doing it. It’s hard sometimes. The hockey gods are interesting. The bottom line is the playoffs and winning the last game of the year, and we just want to get better.”

Demon boss Lindy Ruff, a man who had witnessed the ins and outs of hockey for nearly half a century, seemed to know this night might be coming. He answered the team’s morning post-ski question about how difficult it is to beat a team twice in a short span — the Devils topped the Leafs last week in Toronto — with a wry smile.

“You may find this hard to believe: I think it’s hard to win All He said.

Even Rove could not have imagined, however, what would happen a few hours later. The Devils, who were down 2-0, had already seen two goals disallowed when veteran Erik Hola appeared to score in the third period. But the referees ruled that Hola had hit the ball into the net even though it had deflected off a Toronto player’s skate before crossing the goal line.

The crowd threw water bottles, beer mugs and other rubbish onto the ice as Toronto players retreated through the tunnel to take cover. The scene was ugly and unacceptably (forgive me) totally refreshing. When was the last time Devils fans cared so much about their team?

“I love the passion,” said Haula, who was acquired from Boston in a foreign trade. “You live for it. I don’t care if you spill a beer on me. I tried.” wave to stop So we can continue the game, but I think I got a chicken toe during that time, too.”

It was wild. And to think: it’s still November.

“It was definitely something I will never forget,” said Devils captain Nico Hischer, and explained that what matters now is how that team responds. She travels to Buffalo on Friday before hosting Washington on Saturday. The NHL schedule is a grind, and the best teams never allow one bad night to degenerate into two, three, or more.

The 13-game winning streak is over. But this team of demons is not the same. Not only should the past 29 days change the Devils’ perception of the NHL, but it should change how players see themselves as well. This is not a brave group of high achievers.

Oh, sure, there are still skeptics. Former NHL defenseman Keith Yandle went on Canadian TV this week and predicted that the Devils still wouldn’t make the playoffs, and his reasons were… well, he actually didn’t. Give Which. No matter how you measure it – modern analytics, an old-fashioned eye test, or just that freakin’ order – The Devils are one of the best teams in the NHL.

Barring a disastrous streak of bad luck with injuries, they will comfortably make the playoffs for only the second time since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012. The question now is: Will they be ready to do something special when they get there?

This is of course far fetched. For the time being, a raucous night rocks the rock and beats Buffalo on Friday night. The Devils’ reaction to the end of their streak will be the next bit of information to be kept away while we learn just how good the series is this season.

We know the fans are ready. If they can make Prudential Center feel like the Stanley Cup Finals in November, just imagine what the place will feel like when there is an actual playoff game here this spring.

More from Steve Poletti:

The untold story of how Rutgers crashed the Big Ten

How a former Rutgers athlete ended up being charged with murder in Tijuana

I’ve been getting a Little League menace—and it’s time to clean up

Searching for Luther Wright, New Jersey’s Greatest Talent

I played Augusta National and had my masters meltdown

Ranking of the 99 greatest athletes in New Jersey history

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Steve Politi can be reached at [email protected].

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