Rolston set up Elias' tying goal in the third period. GETTY IMAGES
One bad bounce may have cooled the red-hot Devils, but it didn't cost them in their playoff quest.
Though they came up short, 2-1, to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, they didn't lose ground on eighth-place Buffalo, which lost 3-1 in Pittsburgh.
Ottawa's Erik Condra scored his second of the game to break a 1-1 tie with 2:13 left in the third period. Jason Spezza set him up with a pass that deflected off Andy Greene’s skate, and Condra got just enough of it to put it inside the left post.
“The puck was going in the corner, hit Greenie’s skate, and came back right at the guy’s stick,” said Martin Brodeur, who made 19 saves. “He just got a little tip on it.”
Greene tried to pressure Spezza at the left point. Spezza stickhandled to buy himself time before putting the puck toward the net.
“I was just trying to force him to make a play there,” Greene said. “He actually made a pass but it went off the inside of my skate and went right to Condra. He made a nice play.”
We battled pretty hard. We played a pretty good hockey game. It’s just, these guys almost beat us to our own game. They played really well, I thought. We’ve got to bounce back.- Martin Brodeur
Patrik Elias had tied the game, 1-1, at 4:01 of the third period. The Devils entered the night with four straight one-goal victories, and it seemed the stage was set for one more. This time, though, they couldn’t take the lead.
“We’ve been fortunate in the last so many games to be able to pull them off all the time,” Brodeur said. “Not that we were due, but I think when you don’t put goals on the board, a lucky bounce like the last goal is going to happen. It’s definitely disappointing.”
The Devils (30-32-4, 64 pts) lost in regulation for just the third time in their last 25 games -- 20-3-2. Their winning streak was halted at four games, while their impressive home streak was stopped at six.
Anderson made 31 saves as the Devils outshot the Senators 32-21.
Brodeur felt as though they let a point slip away by failing to get the game to overtime.
“I think we’re in a position that we can’t afford to let go of any points,” he said. “One point would have been really important. Buffalo lost today and it would’ve been really good to get on the board today and get that thing down to seven at least, but it didn’t happen.”
Elias might have had two goals had his apparent power-play tally not been waved off in the second. The Devils squandered three straight power plays, including two 5-on-3s.
Elias didn't think they were guilty of looking past the Senators.
"They’ve been playing really well lately, their goaltender’s been great for them," he said. "That had nothing to do with it."
He appeared to have tied it up at 11:27, but the goal was immediately waved off by referee Frederick L’Ecuyer. The ruling was that Jacob Josefson had played a Travis Zajac rebound with a high-stick before Elias jammed the puck underneath Anderson.
“It didn’t feel like I touched it,” Josefson said. “When I was in there, I didn’t feel like it was a high-stick either, but I think the ref knows the rules better than I do. I’m sure he made the right decision.”
Josefson let L’Ecuyer know.
“I was screaming to him to maybe look at it because I didn’t think it was a high stick,” he said. “I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say anything. That was just my feeling when I was on the ice.”
Elias’ non-goal might have been their scoring best chance during Ottawa’s parade to the penalty box in the second. Penalties to Erik Karlsson, Zack Smith and Filip Kuba gave the Devils a 4:33 block of power-play time, including a pair of two-man advantages lasting 16 seconds and 1:12.
“We had our chances 5-on-3,” Jacques Lemaire said. “You have to be sharp. You have to be able to get a goal there, especially when you get two [5-on-3s], and we did. I think that’s the result of this loss. You have to win. You have to make a play, you have to be able to hit the right player with the puck on the 5-on-3. You have to get a shot in the corner, you have to score. Maybe not on only one, but when you get two, come on. This is what is the most frustrating thing from this game.”
The Devils started the game by playing to their seventh consecutive 0-0 first period. They have held opponents scoreless in 14 straight opening frames, a modern NHL record.
Condra gave Ottawa the lead in the second. Ryan Shannon beat Henrik Tallinder on the forecheck in the left corner, and fed Condra at the left circle. Condra spun to the front of the net, where Brodeur got a piece of his first try but couldn’t stop Condra’s shot off the rebound at 4:45.
“It’s never fun to get scored on,” Brodeur said. “He made a good second effort. I made the first save and he dove and hit the puck out of mid-air.”
Elias scored four minutes into the third to tie the game at 1-1. Dainius Zubrus helped keep the puck in along the right wall, then got it to Brian Rolston at the endboards. Rolston spun a backdoor pass to a breaking Elias, who drilled it by Anderson for his 15th at 4:01.
Offense is becoming harder and harder to come by as teams ratchet up their defensive play during the final quarter of the season.
“It’s tight,” Rolston said. “It seems every team is playing the same, they’re trapping it up and it’s tough to get anything going. You have to chip it in and you have to outwork them down in their end. Every team’s playing the same, they’re collapsing in front of their own net.
“You have to fight for goals. We got one there and the power play has to be big. That goes for both teams, special teams are special now that everyone’s playing the same way.”
The Devils visit Atlanta on Friday and return to host the Islanders on Saturday.
"It could be a costly loss, but we have to get back to the next one," Rolston said. "I don't believe we're out of it yet."
Coach's Quotes Lemaire on his team's effort "We were due. It's only the lack of energy from certain guys that I didn't like and most of them were our top guys."
On the disallowed goal "I was looking. I was trying to see the height of it. I had a hard time there. But I don't want to blame this. It's not even in my thoughts."
On facing Ottawa "I thought they knew exactly what was coming from that team, a team that works and feels good about winning their share of games. They have a lot of changes on that team, a lot of injuries and they're doing a pretty good job. The guys, they knew all that."
On wanting to get the game to overtime "Oh yeah, sure. Definitely. You get a point in a game, it's good."
Notes Adam Mair and Mark Fraser were scratched. … The Devils played to their fifth 2-1 game in their last six and their seventh straight one-goal game overall.
1 - 0 OTT
1 - 1 Tie