Zajac appeared in his 308th straight game, passing Jay Pandolfo for the fourth longest streak in club history.
One mistake on a line change proved costly for the Devils on Saturday.
Alex Steen took advantage, scoring the only goal in the Devils' 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues at Prudential Center.
Steen had an open lane down the left side of the ice and blasted a shot over the glove of Martin Brodeur with 13 seconds left in the first period. Ty Conklin made 29 saves for the Blues, who snapped the Devils’ five-game winning streak at the Rock.
The drought on the power play continued as the Devils misfired on three opportunities, including a 53-second 4-on-3 midway through the third period. New Jersey has gone six games without converting on the man advantage (0-for-17).
There were several close calls for the Devils, who were shutout for the sixth time this season. Ilya Kovalchuk narrowly missed on a wraparound that would have tied the contest, 1-1, at 2:29 of the second. Travis Zajac rocketed a shot that went off traffic in front, then off the right post at 9:50 of the third.
Though the Devils outshot the Blues, 22-12, over the final 40 minutes of play, Jacques Lemaire said it was a sluggish opening 20 minutes that wound up being the difference.
“Bad start,” said the head coach. “The first period was a little flat. We didn’t show as much as we did in the second and third, meaning we didn’t show we were going to work hard to win the game. We didn’t show that in this one. In the second and third we played better, but at that point, pucks were bouncing. You have to start at the very beginning, first shift, to play hard. Otherwise you won’t get the bounces. You have to work all the time. You work all the time, you’ll get the bounces.”
The three-game homestand continues against Columbus on Tuesday, and the Rangers on Thursday. The Devils (42-25-4) trail first-place Pittsburgh by two points after the Penguins’ overtime loss to Carolina on Saturday.
Lemaire didn’t single out one player after the defeat.
“It’s not one individual,” Lemaire said. “It’s the excitement to play, the life that you don’t see. You’re playing, you want to finish first, you want to finish as high as possible. You get a chance to win a game here. Just play hard, get excited to play. We didn’t see that.”
Brodeur stopped 19 of 20 St. Louis shots, but stalled at 39 victories. He remains on the verge of recording his eighth 40-win season while no other netminder in history has more than three.
“It was just a tough game offensively,” Brodeur said. “We did have our chances. You have to give (Conklin) credit. He made a couple of really good saves; got a little lucky on a couple of posts there. They’re hard to win when you don’t score.”
After potting eight goals in their two previous home games, the Devils have scored once in their last two contests. They dropped a 2-1 shootout to the Maple Leafs on Thursday.
“It’s two games in a row, now,” Brodeur said. “I think we did a similar thing in Toronto. They’re tough. I think you feel that defensively, we’ve done our job. If we do that all year, we won’t lose too many games. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s still a hockey game and we need to play. We had our chances and I thought the power play looked good, just no result.”
The night featured fireworks before either club had lit the lamp. Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and former Devil Cam Janssen dropped gloves six minutes into the first period for an epic bout that was clocked at just under three minutes. Both contestants landed some shots, but the edge went to Leblond. He withstood Janssen’s jersey jabs before rallying with a series of rights that eventually knocked Janssen’s helmet to the ice in one of the League’s longest fights this season.
Letourneau-Leblond and Janssen do battle in the first period.
Letourneau-Leblond knew what to expect with Janssen on the ice.
“Pretty much,” he said. “Cam played here for a few years and I know he still has some fans here that he wanted to impress. I was ready for it.”
He believed similar styles are what added up to the lengthy scrap, which was timed at 2:40.
“Cam and I fight pretty much the same way,” said Letourneau-Leblond. “We hold in there and we get the other guy tired. I guess we were both ready for that and I think I might be a little bigger than him."
“I think that was the longest fight I’ve seen,” Clarkson said. “They both did a good job. It was definitely a long one but a good one to watch.”
After Steen’s 21st of the season at 19:47 of the first period, Kovalchuk almost tied it at 2:29 of the second period. He carried a Brian Rolston rebound around the net, but his wraparound attempt into the open left side was blocked by Brad Boyes at the post. Three minutes later, Zach Parise rushed the puck on a 2-on-1 with Rolston and put a slapper through Conklin that trickled just wide of the right post.
“It’s ‘almost’ for the last four games,” Kovalchuk said. “I have to put it in.”
There was a scary moment with 7.3 seconds left when Blues defenseman Roman Polak crashed hard into the boards while skating for a loose puck against Parise and Zajac.
“I didn’t hit him or anything,” Parise said. “I think all three of us were going for the puck.”
“We were all just going for the puck, and he tripped and fell,” said Zajac. “That’s all I got from it. I don’t think anything will come of that. It’s an unfortunate situation where he went in awkward.”
The Devils were last shut out at home on Jan. 8, 2009, when Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen made 29 saves. … Saturday's game was the Blues' first-ever trip to Prudential Center. … Zajac appeared in his 308th straight game, passing Jay Pandolfo for the fourth longest streak in club history. Ken Daneyko holds the club record with 388 (Nov. 4, 1989-March 31, 1991). … New Jersey slipped to 6-9-1 against the West this season. After the Blue Jackets, the Devils' only remaining game outside the conference is versus Chicago on April 2.
• The feeling in the locker room after the game was that the power play, while scoreless, made some gains. The team practiced the attack on Friday.
"We broke into the zone nicely, we made good plays, I thought everybody had poise with the puck," said Rolston, who returned to the lineup after missing Thursday's contest against the Leafs. "We had some really good opportunities, it just didn’t want to go in for us tonight. It’s streaky, but tonight was a step in the right direction."
The Devils fired seven shots in six total power-play minutes.
“It’s been our best power play in a long time,” Lemaire said. “We moved the puck around, we got some shots, created some chances. Only one good bounce; sometimes the puck would jump over our stick. We had the open net, we had great shots from the side that missed the net. But it’s better.”
What needs to be fixed?
“Nothing," Kovalchuk said. "We just have to work the way we work. We got a lot of shots – a lot of great chances – we just have to work and play for each other.”
1 - 0 STL
Holding the stick
Interference - Goalkeeper