Devils Can't Protect Lead in Shootout Loss to Habs

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Devils Can't Protect Lead in Shootout Loss to Habs
Andy Marlin/Getty Images
Devils' goaltender Cory Schneider had 27 saves in the loss on Dec. 4.

At least they got a point out of it—but then, you could say that about a lot of their games so far this fall.

The New Jersey Devils rebounded last night against the Montreal Canadiens with three third-period strikes, including the go-ahead goal from Patrik Elias with 1:06 remaining in regulation. That should have been enough to keep the team from losing for the fifth time in seven outings.

The visiting Habs responded with a score from David Desharnais with just 37 ticks left, and then outscored the Devils in the shootout to escape the Prudential Center with a 4-3 victory.

Desharnais also netted the decisive goal in the shootout, which coupled with Lars Eller's shootout score was enough to offset one by Devils rookie Reid Boucher—who posted an assist on New Jersey's second goal in his NHL debut for his first NHL point.

The Devils have struggled to score this season, having netted just 64 goals in 29 games so far, and the club has tallied more than four goals in a game only twice. They've only given up 71 goals, but are 6-5-6 in one-goal games, which currently ranks them 25th in the league according to NHL.com.

These aren't your dad's Devils anymore.

Once upon a time, a one-goal New Jersey lead, even a late one, invoked an immediate lockdown on any opponent's chances. But that was back at the Meadowlands, and the current team now based in Newark, N.J., struggles in its own end at times, as well as on the offensive end.

Al Bello/Getty Images
Patrik Elias tied last night's game with 1:06 to go, but couldn't score in the shootout.

On the tying goal by Desharnais, Adam Henrique spun around and made a soft clear up the left wing boards in the Devils' zone that was easily picked off by Montreal captain Brian Gionta. The former 40-goal scorer ripped a one-timer that Desharnais deflected home past Cory Schneider for the decisive tally. Schneider fell to 4-5-4 this season, while his team dropped to 11-12-6.

Henrique would surely love to have that one back, but those kinds of plays are killers.

The Devils' three-game winning streak last month almost looks like last year right now, and last weekend's back-to-back wins over Carolina and league-worst Buffalo are a thing of the past. Last night was also the ninth consecutive shootout loss for New Jersey, and the fifth such setback this season.

Two years ago the Devils had a league-best 12 shootout victories, as stated at NHL.com, en route to finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference and making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Though the shootout isn't used in the playoffs, right now those extra session losses are points the Devils keep leaving on the table.

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The Devils are also getting a sizable chunk of their offense from 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr (a team-high 11 goals and 22 points), 37-year-old Elias (15 points) and 36-year-old Marek Zidlicky (14 points). Imports like Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner, who were expected to help jump start the Devils attack, have combined for just 11 goals and 20 points on the season.

The prime concern, again, is that the Devils keep letting points in the standings slip away. Getting one point out of two on some nights is fine, but it's been happening too often this season.

With the Detroit Red Wings and the rival New York Rangers on tap this weekend, and the Pittsburgh Penguins looming next week, things are going to get tougher for this Devils team.

There are still more than 50 games left on the schedule, but the Devils have to start tightening things up (and also start winning some shootouts) if they want to avoid missing out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in four years.

It's not time to panic yet in New Jersey, but it's not too terribly far off.

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