Travis Zajac's 14th of the season was all the Devils got against the Islanders on Friday night.
newjerseydevils.com (March 21) – Kyle Okposo's first NHL goal put a frustrating monkeywrench into the Devils' stretch run.
Okposo broke a 1-1 tie with 2:35 left in regulation and Trent Hunter added an empty netter to send the Devils to a difficult 3-1 loss at Prudential Center on Friday night.
The Islanders were outshot 35-16, but cashed in on a late power play when the 19-year-old Okposo one-timed Richard Park's pass from the right hash marks for the winner.
Travis Zajac, who was in the box for holding when Okposo scored, had the lone marker for the Devils.
Martin Brodeur (40-23-6) stopped 12 of 14 shots and fell to the Islanders for the fifth time this season. The reigning Vezina Trophy is winless in two starts since securing his 40th victory last Saturday.
Brodeur's counterpart, Wade Dubielewicz, made 34 saves for his second win against the Devils this season. Dubielewicz and the Isles caught a break in the second period, when Sergei Brylin's power-play goal was disallowed.
"They made the right call," head coach Brent Sutter said. "Good teams have to stay with it and prevail, not beat yourself. These last two games [including Wednesday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Rangers] we beat ourselves. Good teams can't do that. We have to be better than that."
David Clarkson earned the decision against Bill Guerin in their second-period tussle.
New Jersey (42-25-7) dropped its sixth game in seven meetings with the Islanders to slip below .500 against the Atlantic Division (10-11-4). The club remained one point behind Montreal for the Eastern Conference lead, and tied with Pittsburgh atop the Atlantic. Both the Canadiens and Penguins were idle.
The Rangers crept closer to making it a three-horse race for the division Friday, gaining a point with a shootout loss to the Flyers to move within three of the Atlantic lead.
The Devils now begin an important home-and-home with the Penguins that opens Saturday night in Pittsburgh and concludes next Tuesday night in Newark.
Looking to rebound from Wednesday's loss to the Rangers, the Devils fell behind early. The Islanders took the game's first lead when Blake Comeau's seventh of the season from outside the left circle floated through Park's screen at 4:46.
Zajac snapped a 13-game goal drought to even the score, converting on the Devils' first power-play chance of the night.
Zach Parise fed cross-slot to Brian Gionta at the left circle, and Gionta put an off-speed shot on net that Dubielewicz stopped. Zajac reached back on his forehand to punch in the rebound for his 14th of the season at 13:46.
Zajac's fifth on the power play was the only New Jersey goal in an opening period that saw the Devils outshoot the Islanders, 14-5. Parise notched his 32nd assist on the play, tying Patrik Elias for the team lead and surpassing his career high of a year ago (31).
The Devils thought they had made it 2-1 on a power-play goal from Brylin at 5:15, but it was disallowed after a video review showed that the net had been dislodged before the puck crossed the line.
After David Clarkson's wraparound attempt failed, a scrum developed for the loose change. Brylin backhanded over Dubielewicz just after the right post had been jarred from its mooring.
Brodeur left the game briefly with a skate problem at 10:16 of the second and was relieved for 2:22 by Kevin Weekes, who made his seventh appearance of the season. It was Weekes' first action in 33 games since starting Jan. 5 in Boston, and the Devils' backup posted one save in short relief.
Clarkson provided one of the highlights of the scoreless middle frame in a fight with former Devil and current Islanders captain Bill Guerin. The Devils' rookie popped off the veteran's helmet with a right, landing some solid shots before recording the takedown.
What New Jersey couldn't do in the second was score, going 0-for-4 with the man advantage, including four seconds of a 5-on-3 and 23 seconds of a 4-on-3. Despite the Devils' 25-11 shots advantage after 40 minutes, the 1-1 stalemate lasted into the second intermission.
In the third, Arron Asham delivered one of the most decisive victories the Devils have seen in a fight all season with his one-punch KO of Islanders defenseman Matthew Spiller at 7:02.
The two came together along the left boards in Devils' territory before the 5-11 Asham dropped the 6-5 Spiller with a thundering right that opened up a cut beneath Spiller's left eye.
Seconds after play had resumed, Brodeur made one of his best of the night when he threw out his left leg to foil Jeff Tambellini's backhand try at 7:13.
Later, the Devils gave up a pivotal goal late in regulation for the second time in as many games when Okposo tallied at 17:25. Two days ago it was Chris Drury scoring with less than five minutes left in regulation to spark the Rangers' 2-1 shootout victory at Prudential Center.
Hunter's 11th made it 3-1 with 18.8 seconds left to round out the scoring.
New Jersey slipped to 1-5-1 against the Islanders. The teams close out the season series at the Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday, April 1.
NJD NOTES Gionta reached the 30-assist mark for the second time in his career (41, '05-06)... Elias (ill) missed his third straight game, while Bryce Salvador (lower body injury) missed his second in a row.... Andy Greene and Karel Rachunek were scratches.