After upending Nashville with three goals in the third period on Friday, the Devils came away empty-handed in their first trip to Carolina.
Ray Whitney and Jussi Jokinen each had two goals and an assist in the Devils’ 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
Whitney struck for two power-play goals one minute apart in the second period. The Devils fell behind 4-0 before Zach Parise broke up Justin Peters’ shutout 7:26 into the third period at RBC Center.
Brian Rolston’s power-play goal with 2:58 left in regulation got New Jersey back within two goals before Jokinen scored into the empty net to ice it with 1:29 to go.
Martin Brodeur stopped 18 of 22 shots and was relieved by Yann Danis early in the final frame. Danis entered the game after Jokinen had put the Hurricanes up by four, and stopped all eight shots he faced. It was his first appearance since a 3-0 loss at Toronto on Feb. 2.
Video review overturned a Rolston goal that would have made it 4-2 with 8:56 left in the third. It was ruled that he had kicked the puck past Peters, who recorded 23 saves for the Hurricanes. The 23-year-old improved to 2-0 in his second career start.
Eric Staal, who had two assists, was foiled on two breakaways. Brodeur denied him with 4:33 to go in the second, and Danis stopped him seven minutes into the third.
The Devils lost for the first time in three meetings this season with the Hurricanes, and carry a 37-21-3 mark into the two-week Olympic break. They resume the regular season with a three-game Western trip beginning March 2 at San Jose.
With 61 games in the books, New Jersey holds a two-point lead over Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division top spot.
“You’re first in your division so it’s hard to complain about that,” Brodeur said. “Definitely, the little slide lately is something that we didn’t expect because we were doing so well with our consistency throughout the first part of the season. Now we’ve got to refocus and we’re going to have (21) games to go. Right now we’re two ahead of Pittsburgh and that’s not a bad position to be in.”
Carolina took its fifth straight victory overall, and sixth in a row on home ice. The Hurricanes entered the game trailing Boston by 10 points for the final playoff spot in the East.
Zach Boychuk's first NHL goal gave the Hurricanes the lead in the first period.
Off of a scramble in front of Brodeur, Boychuk shoveled the puck up off the shoulder of Devils defenseman Mark Fraser and into the net to make it 1-0 at 16:47. Boychuk, the 14th overall pick in 2008, scored his first NHL goal in his 14th career game.
The Devils misfired on three power plays in the first period, then got into penalty trouble with four straight minor penalties in the second. Carolina took advantage with two tallies on the man advantage.
Penalties to Dainius Zubrus and Rob Niedermayer left New Jersey down two men for 40 seconds at 4:06 of the second. Whitney notched his first of the night at 4:34 with a one-timer from the left faceoff dot on a setup from Staal.
Whitney added his second of the game, 19th of the season, 60 seconds later. Tim Gleason’s shot from the left point hit the left post, and Whitney found the loose puck behind Brodeur to make it 3-0 at 5:34.
Jokinen made it 4-0 early in the third. Whitney controlled along the left boards, and fed cross-ice for Jokinen’s one-timer from the right circle at 3:27.
Parise answered with his 28th of the season to extend his goal streak to three games. Ilya Kovalchuk, who notched the game-winner on Friday, carried one-on-two into the Carolina zone. Parise put Kovalchuk’s drop pass on goal, then picked up his own rebound for a backhander past Peters at 7:26.
Parise grabbed his 61st point and continued to surge with three goals and an assist in his last three games. Kovalchuk now has three points in his last two games (1g-2a).
Rolston’s power-play marker in the third got New Jersey back within a pair. Jamie Langenbrunner worked the puck from the left half boards to Travis Zajac, who slipped a cross-slot pass to Rolston for the tap-in at 17:02. His 17th of the season snapped an eight-game goal drought, while Zajac stretched his points streak to three games (2g-2a).
Danis was pulled with 2:34 to go in regulation. The Devils were looking to set up in Carolina territory when Jokinen poked the puck away from Kovalchuk at the left point and raced down the right side for the empty-netter.
The Devils have lost four straight road games. … Kovalchuk played in his 600th NHL game. … Anssi Salmela was back in the lineup after missing two games with an upper body injury (Feb. 8 at Phi.). … Jay Pandolfo was back in the lineup after he was a healthy scratch on Friday. … Matt Corrente played his second straight game after being called up on Friday and got the best of Tom Kostopoulos in a third-period scrap. … Dean McAmmond (upper body) did not travel to Carolina. … The Devils close out the season series at Carolina on April 3.