The Devils scored two power play goals in a game for the first time this season. Adam Larsson recorded his first NHL point. Patrik Elias scored his 93rd career goal on the man-advantage, breaking John MacLean’s franchise record.
But none of that seemed to matter after the Devils lost for the third straight time and fourth time in their last five games on Wednesday night, falling 5-3 to the surging Maple Leafs.
“I don’t have an explanation,” coach Peter DeBoer said.
“We did too much running around in our own zone, and struggled with our breakouts,” he said.
Martin Brodeur looked rusty in what was his first start in almost three weeks, but the Devils didn’t do him any favors.
Case and point: On Toronto’s first goal, three Devils were just standing near the net as Joey Crabb, unmarked, batted a puck out of the air and in. On the Maple Leafs’ second tally, Mikhail Grabovski came through the backdoor to bury a cross-ice pass. Brodeur never had a chance.
Toronto’s third -- the first of three straight by Joffrey Lupul in a span of 6:42 during the second period -- came off a fat, juicy rebound which could’ve been cleared away. Lupul skated around three Devils for the fourth, which deflected off Mark Fayne's stick and then Brodeur’s glove before settling into the twine.
Lupul completed his fourth career hat trick and capped the Leafs’ scoring for the evening by cashing in on a rebound of his own shot in front after Brodeur made back-to-back saves.
“Marty worked his butt off to rehab,” DeBoer said. “We didn’t do a good job around him tonight. We need to tighten up in front of our net.”
Where’s Jacques Lemaire when you need him?
“Of course it’s a concern,” Zach Parise said. “We gotta be better.”
Before Wednesday night’s loss, DeBoer moved rookie center Adam Henrique to the top line between Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk in an attempt to ignite an anemic offense that ranked 28th in the NHL.
It didn’t work.
“We’ll stick to it,” said Kovalchuk, who despite being moved to right wing, hasn’t scored a goal in his last six games.
Asked about the adjustment of moving from left wing to right wing, Kovalchuk replied: “Doesn’t really matter. Coach gives you ice time so you gotta capitalize on that.”
DeBoer wouldn’t comment any further on if changes are imminent. Something must be done.
Philadelphia looms on Thursday. The road doesn’t get any easier. But the Devils (4-5-1) need to right the ship quickly.
They can’t afford another 9-22-2 start. Not that they’re about to panic -- yet.
“We can’t play that way,” DeBoer said. “We can’t give up those types of chances, we’re not gifted enough.”