I'm well aware that you'd have to own an entire rack full of tinfoil hats to consider it a possibility that a rookie who is still fighting for a regular spot while getting acclimated to the NHL actively threw a game late in his first professional season. I don't think I actually believe that Steve Santini had the standings in mind when he relentless tried to give a Dallas Stars' forward scoliosis. I'm pretty sure I am too smart to accuse a proud, hard nosed competitor of intentionally taking a penalty with less than a minute to go in a tie game against a team that was damn near guaranteed to score on the resulting powerplay.
Unfortunately, I just can't think of a single reason - other than lottery-fueled sabotage - that someone would respond to getting away with damn near a dozen crosschecks only to take a second to think about it before rearing back and delivering a final, fateful one. I was sitting in Prudential Center and as Steve Santini drifted towards the hashmarks I thought to myself "I can't believe he didn't get a fucking penalty the..." and before I could even finish the sentence in my head he had taken the penalty that ultimately cost the Devils the game. I don't know what sparked his lack of subtlety, but I will say that it looked a hell of a lot like he wasn't going to stop committing borderline penalties until one of them landed him in the box.
I want to make this clear. I don't think that professional athletes do stupid shit to increase their chances of defeat. I'm pretty positive that even the shittiest of teams - and the Devils are pretty close to just that - are more worried about their job security than giving their organization the opportunity to draft a mildly more talented teenager. That being said, I wouldn't even mind if Steve Santini came forward and said "I tried to turn Cody Eakin's spine into an accordion because getting a 2nd point in overtime could only be detrimental come June". Not because I want the New Jersey Devils to (purposefully) tank, but because it would make more sense than whatever the fuck was really going through his head at the time.
P.S. I'm not suggesting that Blake Coleman retire on top, but he should know that (as long as he's in a Devils jersey, anyway) goals probably won't get much prettier than the first one of his NHL career...