WHAT IT MEANS: The New Jersey Devils’ already slim playoff hopes likely -- yes, likely -- faded away Friday night. A 3-0 shutout loss to the NHL’s hottest team, the Washington Capitals, in front of a sellout crowd at the Prudential Center means that New Jersey (33-34-4) can only amass a total of 92 points -- and that’s if they win every one of their last 11 games, which they just may be capable of. Make no mistake, the Devils' improbable second-half run (23-5-2) is to be commended, because there really is no shortage of superlatives that can describe just how incredible it's been. In the end, though, the reason they’ll probably miss the postseason for the first time since 1995-96 won’t be because of their two latest defeats -- or because they've fallen to the Senators twice in the last 10 days. No, it’ll be because they couldn’t get four to six more points in a woeful first half in which they went 10-29-2. Meanwhile, the Capitals (42-21-10), despite being outplayed from the drop of the puck, won for the 10th time in 11 tries. Washington was outshot 33-12. The 12 shots were the lowest total the Devils have surrendered all season.
RETRO NIGHT IN NET: The Devils were wearing their red and green throwback jerseys to commemorate the franchise’s early days. Goaltender Martin Brodeur even sported his old retro mask, the same one he wore when he was a young kid trying to prove himself in the NHL. Michal Neuvirth is trying to do what Brodeur once did for the Devils -- and he looked every bit like a young Brodeur in this one, making 33 saves to record his 23rd victory of the season. His best three came when he robbed Ilya Kovalchuk twice in the second -- once on the breakaway and once when he snagged a howitzer from the Russian sniper on the power play -- and then a glove save on a breakaway late in the third. The last time the Devils were shut out was Nov. 26. Brodeur made nine stops in defeat.
POWER OUTAGE: To say the Devils looked lost on the power play Friday night would’ve been an understatement. All evening long it felt like they had no concept of what they wanted to do. Their chemistry was lacking and they were just stagnant. In all, the Devils finished 0-for-4 on the man-advantage, and failed to score on a four-minute power play that spanned from late in the second to early in the third. And in their last four games, the Devils are just 1-for-14 on the man-advantage.
SCORING SUMMARY: Jeff Schultz gave Washington a 1-0 lead at 6:10 of the first period, rocketing a one-timer from the top of the left circle by Brodeur off a pass from Mike Knuble. Then, Knuble made it 2-0 Capitals at 15:58 of the second period, taping in a gorgeous feed from Colonia, N.J., product John Carlson. Knuble got his second goal of the game with 8:36 remaining in the third period, widening Washington’s advantage to 3-0.
UP NEXT: The gauntlet, which comes in the form of four consecutive road games. The Devils will travel to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets on Sunday, followed by clashes with the Bruins in Boston on Tuesday, the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday and the Sabres in Buffalo on Saturday. New Jersey is 15-19-1 away from home this season.