WHAT IT MEANS: The New Jersey Devils finally got some help on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, they were unable to help themselves. The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres, 3-1, but the Devils were unable to make up any ground in the standings as they fell to the NHL's worst team, the Ottawa Senators, 2-1, at the Prudential Center. The loss snapped the Devils' four-game winning streak. New Jersey still trails the Sabres by eight points in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 16 games remaining. The Devils (30-32-4) also failed to get back to the .500 mark for the first time since the first game of the season (0-0-1). They are still 20-3-2 in their last 25 games.
THE DIFFERENCE: It proved to be Erik Condra's second goal of the game with just 2:13 left in regulation. Condra tallied after Patrik Elias failed to dump the puck all the way into the Ottawa zone. Eventually, Jason Spezza was able to speed up the ice with the disc into the Devils' end. He waited, then flipped a pass toward the goal that deflected off Andy Greene's skate and right to Condra for an easy tap in past Martin Brodeur.
STAYIN' ALIVE: Elias scored for the first time since Feb. 16 against the Carolina Hurricanes to tie things up just 4:01 into the third period. After Mark Fayne kept the puck in on the right point, Dainus Zubrus eventually sailed a pass to Brian Rolston down low. Rolston turned behind the net, and fed a streaking Elias below the left circle for a one-timer that finally beat Craig Anderson, making it 1-1. For Elias, it was his 15th goal of the season.
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: The Devils had two separate five-on-three power plays in the second period, but were unable to capitalize. They looked tentative and hesitant during the two-man advantages, and were probably holding their sticks a bit too tight. New Jersey thought it had tied the game at 11:27 of the second period, but Elias' goal was wiped out because rookie Jacob Josefson deflected Travis Zajac's point shot with a high stick right before it landed on Elias' tape.
SPIN-O-RAMA: Condra’s nifty spin culminated in the game’s first goal at 4:45 of the second period. After Ryan Shannon got in behind Henrik Tallinder and beat him to a puck at the end boards, Shannon sent a pass to Condra inside the left circle. Condra then beat two Devils’ players with a spin as he moved in on Brodeur. Condra’s first shot was stopped, but he persistently followed it up and tapped home the rebound as he was falling down to give the Senators a 1-0 lead. The Devils trailed after two periods for the first time since their last loss, Feb. 25 at Tampa Bay.
EXTENDING THEIR MARK: Despite looking sluggish in the first period and being outshot 8-7, the Devils extended their modern NHL record to 14 straight games without allowing a goal in the opening stanza. They established the new mark (13) on Sunday against the New York Islanders. New Jersey, however, hasn’t scored a first-period goal in its last seven games. The last time the Devils had a goal in the opening stanza was on Feb. 19 against the Carolina Hurricanes. One can only wonder if interim coach Jacques Lemaire will continue to give his team off days and optional skates if this continues.
UP NEXT: The Devils head south to take on the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night. Then they head back home to face the New York Islanders on Saturday night.