The New Jersey Devils' 2013 season did not live up to the hype.
After a run to the Stanley Cup finals last season, expectations were high for a Devils squad that returned all of its players beyond Zach Parise.
Things did not work out for the team, though. After an impressive start, the team slowly dipped out of the elite and then out of the playoffs.
Injuries plagued the team throughout the season, but in the end, poor play kept the Devils from the postseason.
So where did things go wrong? When did the Devils stop playing like Eastern Conference champs and start playing like a team playing for a lottery pick? There were a few bumps along the way, but here's where the team really fell apart.
In mid-February, the Devils were playing their 15th game of the season. They had gotten off to a blistering pace, going 9-2-3 up to that point.
Unfortunately for the Devils, after a scoreless first period, John Tavares ignited the New York Islanders offense. He scored twice late in the second period and then finished off his hat trick––as well as adding an assist––in the third.
The Islanders ended the embarrassment up by four and converted on three of their six power plays.
The Devils ]took the loss hard, going on to lose seven of the next eight and getting just three points in the standings during that stretch.
The Devils played back-to-back games on February 23 and 24. The first game was started by Johan Hedberg with the expectation that Martin Brodeur would start the second game.
Instead, Brodeur was ruled out of the game prior to its start, and Hedberg got his second start in as many days. What followed was a travesty.
Besides losing their starting netminder, the Devils also lost the game. Badly.
The Winnipeg Jets entered the game with the worst penalty kill in the league but held the Devils scoreless on both power plays allotted to them. Meanwhile, the Jets entered the game with an 0-for-21 slump on the power play, but Grant Clitsome scored on one halfway through the game.
Brodeur ended up being out long term, and the Devils went without a regulation win for the next seven games.
Ilya Kovalchuk was injured during the game when he lost his footing and went sliding hard into the boards. The next morning, he landed on the injured reserve.
The loss killed the Devils season. They lost their next 10 games, all but guaranteeing themselves a long summer break from hockey.
The Devils entered their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 29 in seventh place in the East, playing hard for a playoff spot.
At the bottom of the standings stood both Florida teams. The Lightning occupied the third-lowest spot in the conference, while the Panthers were the worst team in the league at the time.
The game against the Lightning was going well, with the Devils leading late into the game. But then, with just 16 seconds left, Alexander Killorn evened up the score. The Panthers eventually won the game in a shootout.
Then came the March 30th game against the Panthers. Once again, the Devils had a lead late in the game, and things were looking good. But then Shawn Matthias tied the game at two apiece with just 27 seconds left. Dmitry Kulikov scored a minute-and-a-half into overtime, giving the Panthers the win.
It can't be overstated how harmful these losses were to the Devils. Losing these two points crushed the team's morale. They never really recovered, given their 4-8-1 finish to the season.