There was good news to report for the Devils on Saturday, even though they came out on the losing end of Saturday's matinee in Colorado.
Patrik Elias was said to be "OK" after taking a hard hit from Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson in the opening minute of the second period. Elias remained on the ice for several minutes near the Devils bench after the hit, but waved to the crowd as he was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Devils' President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello said Elias would fly home with the team, and would be further evaluated on Sunday. New Jersey visits Long Island on Monday.
The Devils (32-13-1) already trailed, 2-0, 38 seconds into the second period, when Elias carried the puck down the right side. He was met at the Colorado blue line by Wilson, whose left shoulder collided with Elias' chest. No penalty was assessed on the play.
Just over three minutes later, rookie defenseman Mark Fraser dropped the gloves and got the best of Wilson in an energetic fight.
Head coach Jacques Lemaire said the hit on Elias was tough to watch, but didn't think it was dirty.
"It happened just in front of us," Lemaire explained. "When he hit, he lifted up his shoulder and I think Patrik was a little careless on this."
Colorado took the lead on first-period goals by Chris Stewart and T.J. Galiardi before Rob Niedermayer cut the deficit in half early in the second. The Devils couldn't connect on a power play with 2:45 left in regulation despite firing seven shots on Anderson.
Wojtek Wolski added an empty-netter with 12.3 seconds to go in the third.
Martin Brodeur, who leads the NHL with 29 victories, made 25 stops and was denied win No. 30 for the second straight game. Colorado's Craig Anderson finished with 37 saves.
For now, though, the concern will be for Elias' health. The team's all-time leading scorer, Elias ranks fifth on the Devils with 26 points (10g-16a) in 32 games.
Elias missed the first 13 games of the year following offseason groin surgery and has been a major part of New Jersey's offense since his return. He enjoyed a season-high eight-game points streak from Dec. 7-21 (5g-5a).
Lemaire was forced to get creative without one of his top forwards. He moved Colin White to the front of the net during a second-period man advantage, and the burly blueliner drew a hooking penalty on Kyle Quincy to set up consecutive power plays.
"What I tried to do was get anybody that could maybe have a presence there," Lemaire said. "Our skilled players were not good with the puck, so might as well go with the other guy on the power play."
The Devils maintain a four-point lead over Pittsburgh, pending the outcome of the Penguins' late game at Vancouver. Buffalo, who was set to visit the Islanders on Saturday night, trails New Jersey by two points for the top spot in the conference.
Lemaire wouldn't go so far as to say his team's in a slump. Jersey's Team has lost consecutive games during only three stretches this season. They were beaten in two straight home contests to open the year, then went 0-2-1 during stops in Philadelphia, Nashville and Dallas from Nov. 16-21.
"Not a slump, I call that lack of preparation," he said of Saturday's game. "Or not enough sleep."
After splitting the first four games of the five-game trip, he hopes to get his club back on track quickly. He used his only timeout right after Stewart had made it 1-0.
"I don't think our (mental game) was there tonight," he said. "We didn't have good energy, that's why I called the timeout: I could see it right away. That's what they showed me, that their mind wasn't there. (Colorado) was working around us, making three, four passes right through the same guy that was trying to check. I could see the game wasn't going to go well, at all."
For the second straight contest, the Devils fell behind 2-0 in the first period.
Stewart's 15th gave Colorado the early lead at 3:17. Mike Mottau's pass up the left boards was kept in at the point by Scott Hannan, and Paul Stastny took Wojtek Wolski's pass to feed Stewart for the tap-in.
Galliardi's blast from the right circle with 1:28 to go in the first snuck under Brodeur's blocker on a 4-on-4 to make it 2-0.
Niedermayer got the Devils back within a goal at 1:55 of the second, tipping Jay Pandolfo's pass between Anderson's pads for his sixth of the season. That snapped Niedermayer's 11-game goal drought.
Travis Zajac was robbed by Anderson with 6:45 to go, after an outstanding centering feed by Rod Pelley from behind the net.
The game featured two other fights besides Fraser's bout with Wilson. Andrew Peters, back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 31, battled David Koci 2:24 into the first period. Peter's jersey was torn during the scrap, leaving a gaping hole down the left side of the sweater.
Pelley earned a victory in his fight with Matt Hendricks at 13:13 of the second, landing several punches before scoring the takedown.
Fraser is no stranger to coming to the aid of a teammate. He fought Tampa Bay's Ryan Malone at the Rock back on Dec. 4 after Malone had put a big hit on Elias along the boards. … Mottau reached 200 games with the Devils on Saturday.
1 - 0 COL
2 - 0 COL
2 - 1 COL
3 - 1 COL
Interference on goalkeeper