Arnott celebrates his 13th of the year in the first period.
You usually don’t see pucks going in from all angles the way they did for the Devils on Friday night: Travis Zajac corralling a crazy bounce off the glass for a tap-in, or Nick Palmieri ducking under a Mark Fayne floater that found the back of the net.
But despite their good fortune in taking a 3-2 lead on the visiting Florida Panthers, the Devils couldn't hold on to it.
Mike Santorelli's shorthanded goal tied the game with 7:08 left in regulation, and Rostislav Olesz scored two minutes into overtime to a seal a 4-3 victory for the Panthers.
Making his first start in five games, Johan Hedberg recorded 25 saves but couldn't stop Olesz's wrister from the bottom of the right circle in the extra session.
"I don't remember what happened before he came in, but he takes it from an angle and it finds the hole between my [right] arm and my body, and that shouldn't happen," Hedberg said. "It's disappointing."
Hedberg used a pokecheck to break up Marty Reasoner's shorthanded breakaway with 35 seconds left in the middle period. He tried a similar play on Santorelli, but missed. With the Devils looking for an insurance goal on the power play, Santorelli intercepted an Ilya Kovalchuk pass at the New Jersey blue line and raced in alone.
Hedberg came out to challenge, but Santorelli moved around him and put it into the empty net.
"He fooled me, kept his head the whole time, he was probably just waiting for it," Hedberg said. "It was a stupid move by me because he had too much time for that. I should not have done that, but I've got to learn and choose my moments better."
Kovalchuk was attempting a short pass to Brian Rolston and flubbed a rolling puck after catching it out of the air. Not the play he wanted to make on the one-year anniversary of his blockbuster trade from Atlanta.
Asked if the ice was the problem, Kovalchuk shouldered the blame himself.
Hedberg made 25 saves in his first start since Jan. 22.
"No, the hands and the head," he said. "I have to be sharp because I'm playing the D position and I have to be responsible for those chances."
The Devils (18-30-4) picked up a point, and have gained 18 of a possible 22 to start the second half. They moved one point ahead of the idle Islanders for 14th place in the Eastern Conference and prepare to face the Canadiens Sunday afternoon in Montreal.
New Jersey fell to 1-0-2 against the Panthers, with both losses coming in overtime. Florida snapped a three-game losing streak and won for the second time in its last nine.
Jacques Lemaire's squad played to an intense 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden one night earlier, then closed out a tough stretch of three games in four nights. After an emotional contest against a heated rival, the Devils might have had little left in the tank.
"I hate to take that excuse because we had long meetings before just to try to make them aware of that," Lemaire said. "I hate to use that as an excuse."
The Devils got behind 1-0, then took leads of 2-1 and 3-2.
Chris Higgins put Florida ahead first. Steve Bernier got around Anssi Salmela to enter the zone, then shot from the right circle. Hedberg kicked it away, but couldn’t stop Higgins’ backhander from the doorstep at 6:52.
A weird carom allowed the Devils to tie it 120 seconds later. Tomas Vokoun played the puck safely into the corner to his left. Jason Garrison got to it and tried passing off the glass behind his own net. The puck took a funny hop right to Zajac for an unassisted tap-in and his eighth of the season.
"It was a good bounce, and I was lucky I was in the right spot at the right time," Zajac said.
The Devils struck again to take a 2-1 lead on Jason Arnott’s 13th. When Cory Stillman tried to recover a lost stick, Henrik Tallinder was left open for a shot from the point that went off the endboards and found Arnott in front at 11:01.
Dennis Wideman tied it on the power play with a seeing-eye shot from the point. The puck sneaked through Michael Frolik’s screen and between Hedberg’s pads to make it 2-2 at 12:35.
Fayne would probably need a sand wedge to recreate his trick shot that broke the tie in the second. He chopped at a rolling puck, lifting it into the air toward the screen of Palmieri, who ducked. When Palmieri looked up again, the puck was sitting in the back of the net for a 3-2 lead at 6:20.
"I should pick up golf," Fayne said. "I just saw the puck coming out and I never really had good footing or anything, so I tried to get it to the net. It was a little chip shot. I saw Nick kind of look up and see it coming right for him and he ducked. It was a good distraction."
Zajac added an assist to round out a two-point night. He hit the post on a 2-on-1 with Palmieri with 4:47 to go in regulation.
Special teams didn't provide the lift the Devils needed on Friday. The power play was 0-for-3 and is now scoreless in 10 tries over the last four games. Santorelli's goal was the fourth shorthanded marker the Devils have allowed this season. Florida was 1-for-2 with the man advantage.
"I think it was special teams that was the factor for them winning," Zajac said. "Obviously we gave up one on our power play and our penalty kill. It's tough to lose like that more than anything, but we'll move on. We've still been playing good hockey and we'll take it a game at a time and get ready for Montreal."
Devils fell to 2-3 in overtime this season, 1-2 on home ice.
• Patrik Elias had a shorthanded breakaway of his own at 9:16 of the second period. He tried to go five-hole on Vokoun, who made 28 saves.
"I don't know if he knew it, but I faked it pretty well and still tried to go there," Elias said. "I didn't play it well."
He had another big chance 19 seconds into overtime, when he drove to the net for the rebound of Rolston's breakaway.
"I just tried to follow it up and puck bounced out a little bit and Vokoun was laying in the crease and another defenseman was right there," he said. "I just tried to squeeze it through him. Maybe I just have to take my time and go up high under the crossbar."
Lemaire on Kovalchuk's turnover that led to the tying goal:
"It's a mistake that can happen to any player. It's not that he didn't play well – Kovy's been playing wonderful. He made a pass, missed the puck."
"He was fine. He hasn't played for a long time, it's kind of hard. But overall, he was fine. I think we didn't play well in front of him. You look at the first goal, [Anssi Salmela] tripped on the side, easy rebound [for Higgins] to put in. Power play, breakaway, we didn't give him any chances there. And even the last goal, it's 2-on-2, we let the guy shoot for no reason. It's mental mistakes that we made through the whole game. We deserved to lose."
On facing Montreal:
"Everyone has to play their best game when you play against a good team. More and more, you look at the teams you're playing, they're all good teams. It's Montreal, and then it's Carolina, then it's Toronto – they're all good. That's why every player has to be at their best and you have to play as a group and play well and make good passes."
1 - 0 FLA
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NJD
2 - 2 Tie