Langenbrunner nearly made it 2-0 on a first-period two-on-one with Parise.
Goals have been tough to come by lately for Jacques Lemaire’s Devils. After Friday’s 3-1 loss to the visiting Montreal Canadiens, the head coach seemed ready to try anything.
“I would enjoy anyone getting a goal: my defensemen… Marty (Brodeur)… Scott Stevens,” Lemaire said.
He hopes to get the offense jumpstarted soon. Zach Parise’s first-period goal was all the scoring the Devils could muster before the Canadiens struck for the next three tallies. Jersey’s Team fell to Montreal for the first time in their last seven meetings.
Montreal’s Mathieu Darche had a goal and an assist, including the go-ahead marker that broke a 1-1 tie in the second period. Ex-Devil Brian Gionta assisted on Darche's winner in his first return to New Jersey since signing with the Canadiens last summer.
Gionta blasted a slapshot from just inside the blueline, and Darche redirected it on the way in. Darche waved his stick at the puck, batting it underneath Martin Brodeur at 4:35 of the second. Brodeur finished with 21 stops.
Jaroslav Halak got the victory, making 31 saves to hand the Devils just their second loss in their last nine home games. New Jersey (33-15-1) has dropped four of five overall, and visits the Islanders on Saturday.
The quick turnaround will be an opportunity for the Devils get back on track offensively. They’ve been held to a goal or less in four of their last six contests, including Monday’s shutout on Long Island. Lemaire’s trying to find some scoring balance while his team copes with injuries to Patrik Elias, Paul Martin, David Clarkson and Dainius Zubrus.
“Right now, we have one line that is scoring, and we have to find someone else that will join this little group,” Lemaire said.
That line is the ZZ Pops trio of Parise, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner, which combined for 16 shots on goal on Friday. They pressured Halak on the opening minute of the third period, when the Devils trailed 2-1.
“We wanted to come out, try and get a quick one and take over the game,” Zajac said. “But it didn’t happen.”
Langenbrunner had two cracks at the potential tying goal early in the final frame, but Halak answered. Zajac fed him for a one-timer off Halak’s right shoulder, and moments later, Langenbrunner misconnected on a backhander from the doorstep.
“I felt when we were down, 2-1, that it was there to be had,” said the Devils captain. “We were getting the opportunities and they weren’t really generating a whole lot. First shift of the third, I definitely could’ve had one and kind of fanned on the backhand shot. We did some good things and got some pucks to the net.”
“Hopefully (Saturday) we’ll have another line that will chip in and play a good game, as good as our top line’s playing right now,” Lemaire said.
The team’s struggles on the power play also continued Friday, with New Jersey going 0-for-2. They have misfired on their last 23 opportunities with the man advantage.
“That’s been hurting us in our last few losses,” Zajac said. “The power play’s not scoring and it’s tough to win 1-0 hockey games all the time.”
Things started well for the Devils in the first period. They scored first for the second straight game when Langenbrunner curled deep in his own zone and lofted the puck to Parise at center ice. Parise raced in alone from the blueline and tucked a backhander between Halak’s pads at 5:16, snapping a five-game goal drought.
“I’m not sure we tested Halak too much,” Parise said. “When we did, he made some good saves, but I still think we could’ve made it a little harder for him.”
Parise, Langenbrunner and Zajac are first, second and third on the Devils' scoring list, respectively.
"We feel, as a line, when we do play together, we should get a goal a game or at least some great chances," Parise said. "But I don't think we put any additional pressure on ourselves to try and produce."
With 3:57 to go in the first, Brodeur made a terrific stick save on Andrei Markov’s backdoor redirection, only to have the Canadiens tie it, 1-1, seven seconds later. Mike Mottau lost his stick along the boards before ex-Devil Scott Gomez set up Benoit Pouliot in the slot for his 11th at 3:50.
Michael Cammalleri’s 24th of the season put the game out of reach in the third.
At one end, Bryce Salvador’s point shot hit off Jay Pandolfo in front, and Halak had to be quick with his left pad. Play came the other way, and Darche stripped Salvador of the puck and controlled behind the net. Darche passed to Markov at the left circle for a quick cross-slot feed for Cammalleri, who one-timed it home at 11:53.
The Devils pulled Brodeur for the extra skater with 1:25 left in regulation, but couldn’t solve Halak.
NJD NOTES Mark Fraser demolished Matt D’Agostini in a third-period scrap, but wound up with a sliced finger after the takedown, courtesy of a linesman’s skate. He received two stitches on his right index finger.
“I had a willing opponent, so I was trying to do what I can to get the guys going,” said Fraser. “I was able to take advantage of the reach differential. I know the fans enjoy it, but it was also to try and spark something with the team.
• Lemaire thought the young players were “OK” on Friday. Patrick Davis and Nick Palmieri were back in the lineup, while Ben Walter made his New Jersey debut after being recalled from Lowell on Friday morning.
“I thought Davis played pretty much like I thought he would,” Lemaire said. “Nick played a little less than I thought he would – not as good. Walter, I haven’t seen him a lot. It’s hard when you’re playing your first game against a team that has a lot of speed and good puck control. It’s hard for these kids to be able to well.”
Walter became the 33rd different player to suit up for the Devils this season, surpassing last year’s team total. He centered Palmieri and Vladimir Zharkov. Rod Pelley (lower body) was placed on IR on Friday, retroactive to Jan. 18.
• Lemaire said no decision has been made on whether Yann Danis will start Saturday’s game. Brodeur has gotten the nod in 28 straight.
“We haven’t talked about this, but it’s a possibility,” said the coach.
• Brodeur entered the game with a 37-15-5 career mark against Montreal, including a 1.76 goals-against average and eight shutouts. … The Devils had won the previous six meetings between the teams, outscoring the Canadiens, 18-7. … The Devils and Canadiens close out the season series at Montreal on March 27.
1 - 0 NJD
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 MTL
3 - 1 MTL