Langenbrunner battles for position in front of the Toronto net.
newjerseydevils.com – The shot count told a different story than the final outcome, which is why the Devils felt there were reasons for optimism after Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
If not for Martin Gerber's career-high 47 saves, the Devils very well might have come out on the winning end of their 48-18 shots advantage.
Though six different Devils registered a game-high five shots, Jamie Langenbrunner's 29th of the season was the lone goal for New Jersey, which saw its winning streak halted at two games.
Toronto struck twice in a 1:19 span of the first period on goals by Mikhail Grabovski and Jeff Hamilton, and held a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes. Langenbrunner answered with a power-play tally in the second, before the Maple Leafs restored their three-goal lead in the third.
The Devils finished 1-for-6 on the power play, and their 11:07 of total time on the man advantage included 37 seconds of a 5-on-3 late in the first.
With the team already trailing by three, Brendan Shanahan's one-timer with 30 seconds left in the first was robbed by Gerber at the side of the net.
It was an early indication of how the game would play out: the Devils buzzing around the Toronto net and challenging Gerber only to come up empty-handed.
"It's a bang-bang play," Shanahan said. "I'm thinking about getting the puck up. It's a tough play. It was a great pass, a hard pass [from Zach Parise]. You try to get good wood on it, and if you can, you get it up in the air. I did that, but he got a piece of it and enough of it."
Shanahan said no one at the net knew where his shot had gone.
"I couldn't find it and Gerber was acting like he didn't know where it was either," Shanahan said. "Zach and I were both ready to pounce on a loose puck or a rebound. Gerber seemed to be looking underneath him and it was in his armpit."
The Devils (49-27-4) lost for the first time since posting back-to-back victories that snapped a six-game winless streak. They have dropped two of three at Prudential Center after setting a franchise record with 11 straight home victories.
New Jersey also ceded ground to second-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division, and missed an opportunity to clinch the division top spot. The Flyers, who have a game in hand, beat Florida to move within five points of the Devils, who have two games remaining.
The Devils visit Ottawa on Thursday, then close out the regular season at home Saturday against Carolina.
Toronto, meanwhile, ended a two-game losing skid with only their second win in the last six games.
"Their goalie was the difference, there's no way around it," Parise said. "We didn't play 60 minutes of the best hockey, but for a lot of the time we did control the play."
Head coach Brent Sutter thought his team's power play was shaky in the early going, but improved as the game went on.
"I thought we were a little stagnant, but then we started getting going in the second," Sutter said. "Everyone wasn't just standing. We were trying to create something. [Gerber] made some pretty good saves on the power play. I thought he saw a lot of shots in the first period, we didn't create enough traffic. In the second, we were better."
Grabovski opened the scoring with his 20th of the season. Mike Mottau and Alexei Ponikarovsky deflected the puck into the air at the right circle in Devils' territory. Grabovski caught it and tossed it down to his stick for a wrister at 9:54.
Hamilton's third of the year put the Devils behind by a pair. Boyd Devereaux gained the New Jersey blue line for a pass to Jamal Mayers, who fed at the left circle for Hamilton's wrist shot at 11:13.
Jason Blake's shot from the right side set up Christian Hanson's first NHL goal from the doorstep for a 3-0 Toronto lead at 15:56.
Brian Rolston had a quality scoring chance on Brian Gionta's rebound with 2:40 left, but was denied by Gerber.
After outshooting the Leafs 17-9 in the first period, New Jersey dominated the second by a count of 18-5. The Devils finally connected late in the middle frame, cashing in on their sixth power play.
Paul Martin pinched at the Toronto blue line to strip Devereaux as he exited the Leafs' zone, and got the puck to Langenbrunner at the right circle. The captain walked in alone on Gerber for a snapshot through the pads at 18:53.
Toronto restored the three-goal lead 1:34 into the third, when Niklas Hagman dug out a Leafs dump-in, and passed in front to John Mitchell for his 12th.
NJD NOTES Langenbrunner extended his goals/points streak to three games (4g-1a). ... Martin has an assist in three straight. ... Patrik Elias (4 gms, lower body) and Niclas Havelid (2 gms., lower body) remained out of the lineup. ... The Devils are 0-3 and have been outscored 12-4 in their last three games with 40 or more shots. ... New Jersey has lost the last five games in which Parise was held without a point. ... Gionta took a high stick from Jay Harrison that required three stitches on the bridge of his nose, and three on his right cheek. Harrison was whistled for the double-minor that created the two-man advantage late in the first. ... The Devils finished 1-1-2 against Toronto in the season series.