newjerseydevils.com (Jan. 18) – The Devils' homestand hit another snag on Friday night.
Forty minutes of outstanding play by Martin Brodeur came undone in the first four minutes of the third period, as the Florida Panthers struck twice in a span of 1:17 to top the Devils, 2-1, at Prudential Center.
After succumbing to a 37-save effort from Rick DiPietro in Wednesday's loss to the Islanders, the Devils were thwarted by Florida backup goaltender Craig Anderson, who made 31 stops in his first career appearance versus New Jersey.
The Panthers arrived in the Garden State having allowed 13 goals in their last three games, all losses.
Yet, for the second time in as many games, the Devils found themselves searching for a tying goal in the dying seconds of regulation after going 0-for-5 on the power play.
Travis Zajac once again potted the lone tally for the Devils, who dropped back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since Nov. 14 (vs. Rangers) and Nov. 16 (vs. Islanders).
"You're up 1-0 in your own building going into the third, and you make a couple mistakes over four minutes," head coach Brent Sutter said. "They were unintelligent mistakes."
The Devils (26-17-3) slipped to 13-7 at Prudential Center, where they will play 14 of their next 19 games beginning Sunday afternoon against Toronto.
New Jersey held on to a tie for the Atlantic Division top spot with Pittsburgh's 3-0 loss to Tampa.
Zajac's 10th of the season at 1:10 of the second period gave the Devils a lead they would carry into the third.
Zach Parise intercepted Ruslan Salei's clearing attempt along the left boards and passed to Jamie Langenbrunner in the high slot. Langenbrunner's shot was stopped by Anderson before Zajac banged home his fifth goal in seven games.
Two quick strikes from Radek Dvorak and David Booth to open the final frame combined to send the Devils to their first loss this season in a game they led after 40 minutes (17-1).
Along the way, Brodeur was brilliant, denying Richard Zednik with saves worthy of his ever-growing personal highlight reel.
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner finished the night with 25 saves, and has limited opponents to two goals or less in seven straight starts.
"Marty was outstanding," Sutter said. "He made some big saves, but we weren't good around our own net tonight. Marty made the saves, and when you think about the opportunities they had, they were from lack of coverage around the net, puck-watching, not covering the man."
The Devils' netminder was tested early, and got his right pad out to stop Booth on a 2-on-1 with Zednik 2:45 into the contest. He later blocked Zednik's rebound attempt at 15:16 of the first period, throwing his goal pads up for an acrobatic save while lying on his side.
Brodeur was back at it in the second period, stoning Zednik on three straight shots 42 seconds in, when Zednik followed up his own wrist shot from outside the right circle with two more shots from the doorstep.
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner brought the Newark crowd out of its seat at the end of the second, robbing Kamil Kreps twice in the final minute.
Kreps crashed the crease for a rebound, and put two backhanders toward Brodeur, who fended off the first and gloved the second at the goal line. A video review found that Kreps' second shot had not entered the net.
Dvorak opened the third-period scoring with his fifth, off a Brett McLean rebound.
Seventy-seven seconds later, Booth netted his 13th when Salei's point shot drifted wide of the right post and caromed straight to him off the end boards. Booth was wide open to slide the puck around the left post.
"Our awareness around the net wasn't good," Sutter added. "When you're up you have to win the hockey game, bottom line."
The Devils had four chances with the man advantage in the second period, as Florida was whistled for four straight minors, including too many men at 14:45.
But the New Jersey power play attack that had connected in five straight contests from Jan. 2 to Jan. 10 has now gone three game in a row contests without producing a goal (0-for-12).
NJD NOTES Karel Rachunek returned to the Devils lineup after missing 10 games with a sore ankle... Barry Tallackson was returned to Lowell (AHL) after being called up under emergency conditions for Wednesday's contest against the Islanders... Sheldon Brookbank was a scratch... Cam Janssen (shoulder), John Madden (ankle laceration) and Jay Pandolfo (groin) remained sidelined.
ETC... Mike Rupp led a physical shift with Arron Asham and David Clarkson at the 11:48 mark of the first. The 6-5, 215-lb. Rupp used his size advantage to put a couple of hard hits on Florida defenseman Steve Montador, who's listed at 6-0, 205.... The Devils' penalty kill dodged a bullet with 57 seconds left in the opening period, when Olli Jokinen's slapshot from the right point caught the right post.... Clarkson got the best of Tanner Glass when the two dropped gloves at 5:34 of the second... Brian Gionta's point streak came to an end at three games (1g-2a-3pts).
SEE THE DEVILS LIVE... THEN STAY TO WATCH THE GIANTS!
Join us this Sunday, Jan. 20 at 5 p.m. when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to Newark. Prudential Center will feature the Giants/Packers showdown on TVs throughout the arena, and the Bud Light Goal Bar, Restaurant, and Lounges will stay open for the entire NFC title game in Green Bay.
See the Devils live, then stick around post game to catch the remainder of the Giants game on the arena's 30-ft. center scoreboard. In addition, post game drink specials and food service will be available.
Tickets are available at the arena box office, Ticketmaster charge-by-phone, or by clicking here.