A matchup with Western-leading Detroit did little to help the Devils get back on track.
The visiting Red Wings scored on their first two shots, and the Devils were unable to gain much footing in a 4-1 loss on Saturday night.
"That's not easy," said head coach John MacLean. "That's not a good way to start."
Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and two assists to round out a seven-point night for his line with Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom, who each had a goal and an assist.
The Devils (8-19-2) dropped their fifth in a row. Since winning a season-high four straight at the Rock, they have dropped their last two on home ice by a combined count of 9-2.
Zetterberg's second-period strike had the Wings ahead 3-0 when Patrik Elias’ power-play goal put the Devils on the board 39 seconds into the third.
With Zetterberg in the box late in regulation, the Devils’ power play fired four shots on Chris Osgood – including three from Ilya Kovalchuk – but couldn’t narrow the deficit to one.
Osgood needed 33 saves for his 399th career win. It was a rare Garden State triumph for the Red Wings (19-6-3), who posted their first victory in New Jersey since Dec. 16, 2006.
Datsyuk would put the game out of reach midway through the third. He was left alone in front of Martin Brodeur on a bad Devils change and converted a Zetterberg pass to restore Detroit’s three-goal lead at 10:12.
"It was a D change," MacLean said. "It was a tough play. We had a D change and then I think Fayner was trying to race over, thought maybe it was icing and then we were a little lackadaisical getting back into our zone. You can't let a great player like that stand in front of your net. He's going to make you pay, which he did."
Brodeur made his first home start since Nov. 12 and finished with 21 saves. He returned to the lineup Friday in Ottawa after missing eight games with an aggravated bruise in his right elbow.
We tried to stay positive there, worked hard, had a lot of good opportunities, a lot of good looks on the power plays, at certain times 5-on-5, we just couldn't put the puck in again.- Patrik Elias
Brodeur could only watch as the Devils caught a bad bounce in the game's opening minute. Just 28 seconds in, Holmstrom’s redirection hit off the right post, then off Brodeur and into the net. Danny Cleary’s left-circle wrist shot off the right post made it 2-0 just 1:14 later.
"They just got two breaks right from the get-go," Brodeur said. "I have to be better than that and make one of the two saves, even though the second one was still a good shot, a lucky shot. Just when you start a game, especially when you play a top team in the League, you can't spot them two goals early on regardless of how they go in."
But the Devils didn't quit, outshooting Detroit, 21-12, over the final two periods.
"We battled hard," Brodeur said. "We were there for a bit and we had a little spurt there in the third and made a big mistake that (put) the game out of reach."
Special teams continue to click for the Devils, who have potted six power-play goals in four games while killing off all 16 opponent chances with the man advantage.
Elias’ tally – a laser from the right circle – was his second on the man advantage in as many games. The Devils’ leading scorer with 19 points, Elias has three goals, two assists in his last five contests. Kovalchuk and Zajac had the assists, and both have a goal and three assists in their last four outings.
"We tried to stay positive there, worked hard, had a lot of good opportunities, a lot of good looks on the power plays, at certain times 5-on-5, we just couldn't put the puck in again," Elias said.
From tough calls like David Clarkson's disallowed goal Friday in Ottawa to Saturday's unfortunate bounces, the Devils have seen too many breaks go the other way while they try to climb back into the wins column.
"I've never experienced this," Elias said. "It's tough. You try to come into every game with a good mindset, even though it's really hard, and believe this is the day, this is the game that we're going to turn it around. It's even more frustrating when we do feel like we're playing OK and just not getting the points."
Still, they believe they have the talent to get off the mat with more than 50 games still remaining. The three-game homestand continues Wednesday against Phoenix.
"It's no one's fault besides the players here. We're all part of it," Travis Zajac said. "We've put ourselves in this situation, it's going to take all the players to get out of it. We have to find a way. We have to come to the rink and want to get better and want to improve and find ways to win."
Langenbrunner OK after hit Jamie Langenbrunner went into the boards heavily in the third after he was boarded by Niklas Kronwall. Langenbrunner missed eight games with a neck injury after an awkward fall into the boards on Nov. 10, but said he was fine after Saturday's game.
"Not the way you want to go into the boards again," said the captain. "Just kind of got caught in an awkward position."
But it was tough to take another loss.
"All I can say is we're all extremely frustrated," he said. "We're playing hard, we're doing a lot of things that we need to do, but we're not playing well enough to win games. That's the bottom line. We're playing hard, but we're not playing smart. If we play smart, then we don't play hard. It's finding that line, and we're not doing it. We're making too many mistakes with the wrong guys on the ice. We're putting ourselves in situations and giving them chances. We're not making it easy on ourselves by putting the puck in the right place on dump-ins, so we end up chasing it instead of playing the way we need to."
The Devils announced a sellout crowd of 17,625 for the fourth time this season. … This was just the third New Jersey meeting between the Devils and Red Wings since 2002-03. The Devils prevailed, 4-3, in their last encounter last Dec. 5, with Elias posting the shootout winner.
1 - 0 DET
2 - 0 DET