UNIONDALE, N.Y. – The New Jersey Devils blamed the power play and not an absence of focus for a disappointing loss to the sliding New York Islanders.
Coming off a win over Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh on Friday night, the Devils had a chance to move into a tie for first place by beating the also-ran Islanders. New Jersey came out strong but couldn’t sustain it in a 4-2 loss Saturday night.
“None,” Devils forward Patrik Elias said forcefully when asked how much a lack of intensity factored into the defeat. “We were ready to play. We played fine the first 15 or 17 minutes. Then we just had a couple of bad shifts in a row.”
Freddy Meyer got the Islanders even at one late in the first period and Jon Sim and Mark Streit scored 50 seconds apart in the second against backup goalie Yann Danis. Dwayne Roloson made 38 saves as New York snapped a four-game losing streak (0-3-1).
With New Jersey playing for the third time in four nights and in the midst of four games in six, Devils coach Jacques Lemaire gave workhorse netminder Martin Brodeur the night off. He was helpless from his seat in the tunnel to the dressing room as the Islanders beat former teammate Danis.
“We wanted to get lots of shots and traffic in front of him,” Streit said. “He probably didn’t have a lot of confidence tonight. We wanted to take advantage of that. Marty is a huge goalie, a very good goalie. He plays the puck unbelievable. It’s a big difference if he is in net.”
The Devils were seeking their first three-game winning streak since a five-game run in December, but instead dropped to 2-11-1 in their past 14 road games. New Jersey went 0 for 4 on the power play including a 5-on-3 advantage for 49 seconds in the third.
New Jersey also failed to score on a five-minute power play in its victory over Pittsburgh.
“We’ve got to work on it. Definitely,” Lemaire said. “We have to be better.”
Roloson shook off Devils defenceman Mike Mottau’s fluke goal 2:52 in. Ilya Kovalchuk’s slapshot from above the right circle 1:41 into the third brought New Jersey to 3-2.
Sean Bergenheim’s first goal in 18 games, a short-handed tally, restored the Islanders’ two-goal advantage with 8:27 left.
The Devils got caught in a trap against the Islanders, who had gone 4-13-1 in their previous 18 games to slip to 14th in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey held a 21-8 shots edge in the third, but couldn’t catch up.
“We played a real strong first 15 minutes. Then we stopped playing for 35 minutes or whatever it was,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “You can’t do that. We had a good third period but too little, too late.
“We weren’t at the level we needed to be.”
Brodeur rested after Friday’s win brought the Devils within two points of Pittsburgh. New Jersey will face playoff-hopeful Boston at home on Monday and host Pittsburgh again Wednesday.
“They are in the middle of the playoff race. They’re up there and they want to finish first,” Streit said. “It’s a big win for us.”
This one was played while a strong rain and wind storm battered the Northeast. Three pieces of the aluminum facade – including one 12-by-18 feet – that surrounds aging Nassau Coliseum flew off the building about 90 minutes before the game. No one was injured, but the main box office exit was closed.
Danis finished with 25 saves in his 10th outing. He hadn’t played since relieving Brodeur on Feb. 13 during New Jersey’s loss at Carolina.
Roloson appeared to be the shaky one when Mottau flipped a puck from the right point that dipped during flight and eluded Roloson on New Jersey’s first shot. It was Mottau’s second goal this season, both scored against New York.
The Devils jumped out to an 11-1 edge in shots, but that run was stopped when Meyer scored his third of the season off a rebound of Tim Jackman’s shot with 2:37 left in the first. New York recorded 10 straight shots and finished the period behind 12-11.
“We just started shooting the puck and tried to get pucks deeper,” Jackman said. “Guys were shooting the puck and going to the net hard. Good things happen.”
Richard Park had the puck knocked off his stick, but it bounced back to Sim. He quickly let go a drive that sneaked inside the right post for his 10th goal.
Just 41 seconds later, Kovalchuk was sent off for high-sticking. Streit needed only nine seconds of that advantage to make the Devils pay. Streit took a cross-zone pass from Frans Nielsen and ripped a slap shot past Danis to match Sim with 10 goals.
That prompted chants of “We Want Marty” from a group of young Devils fans.
NOTES: Islanders 39-year-old captain Doug Weight will have season-ending shoulder surgery. … Danis, who spent last season with New York, has three wins with the Devils including one over New York on Nov. 6.