NEWARK, N.J. -- We now return you to the New Jersey Devils' regularly scheduled decent into the abyss.
After beating the defending Stanley Cup champions in Chicago on Wednesday night, the Devils spoke of the importance of building on that 5-3 victory during their current three-game homestand. They spoke of turning a corner. They spoke of -- what's that sound Charlie Brown's teacher used to make? -- mawwwhhh, mawwwhhh, mawwwhhh.
On Friday night, the confounding Devils turned a corner all right, running smack dab into goalie Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers, who conspired to keep the Devils winless at home with a 3-0 victory.
Yes, the snake-bit Devils did outshoot the Rangers 33-20, and they won 69 percent of the faceoffs, and there were moments when they actually resembled a cohesive unit and pressured the Rangers.
"If it's lack of effort, at least you can point a finger at yourself or get mad about that, but it just seems we can't seem to buy a goal," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said.
Yes, goaltender Martin Brodeur was out with a sore elbow sustained in the Chicago game, but backup Johan Hedberg can't really be blamed for giving up three goals, one on a power play and another short-handed. After all, not many goalies put up W's when none of their high-priced teammates bothers to slip one past the opposing goalie.
Yes, the Devils were without Zach Parise, Colin White and Brian Rolston; but, at the end of the day, there is simply no excuse for the Devils to have lost this game. The Rangers were beat-up themselves. They were without leading point-producer Ryan Callahan, not to mention Marian Gaborik. Plus, they were coming off a miserable 4-1 road loss to Philadelphia the night before.
So call all the mitigating-factor stuff a wash and ask yourself, which club had the better team on the ice at 7 p.m. ET Friday? The Devils, plain and simple.
And yet, when the ice chips were cleared away at the end, all they had to show for "woulda coulda shoulda" was their 10th regulation loss in 15 games (they are 4-10-1 overall and 0-5-1 at home). Last season, the Devils did not lose their 10th regulation game until Dec. 31. Break out the noisemakers.
"Scary? It's getting frustrating," Langenbrunner said Friday. "We all can read the standings and see where we are, realize how many games we've played, how many games in hand teams have on us and where we could be when it's all sorted out. But we can't concern ourselves so much [with that]; we've got to find a way to get some wins ourselves."
Langenbrunner has scored just twice this season, and has played mostly with Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac. They had one shot among them through the first period Friday. Kovalchuk now has gone six straight games without a goal. Against the Rangers, he did have several good looks later in the game and finished with four shots on goal, but he was hardly a force (again).
Kovalchuk also took a roughing penalty 15 seconds into the third period with the Devils trailing 2-0, and that was followed by a five-minute boarding call against David Clarkson that derailed New Jersey's comeback plans.
Not that "comeback" and the Devils have appeared in the same sentence too often this season, given that they are now 0-10-0 when trailing after two periods and 1-8-1 when giving up the first goal.
Kovalchuk said he thought he caught Ruslan Fedotenko with his shoulder on the roughing call but acknowledged that wasn't a good way to start the third. Coach John MacLean was asked about Kovalchuk's play but insisted the Devils need more from everyone, which makes sense given that they are dead last on the power play and in producing offense of any kind.
Veteran forward Patrik Elias sat slumped in his locker room stall after Friday's loss.
"We were the better team for 40 minutes for sure, created a lot of opportunities," he said.
But he noted the seven minutes of penalty kill early in the third were crucial. "We didn't give ourselves a chance to get back in it. That's unacceptable," said Elias, who has one goal in his past 12 games.
The Devils didn't draw their first penalty until early in the third period. The referees' fault? Or the lack of drive from the forwards creating chances and forcing defenders into fouling them? Discuss among yourselves.
The problem for the Devils was, not only did they fail to score on the man advantage (they are on an 0-for-13 streak through their past five games), but they also gave up a short-handed goal to Brandon Dubinsky, prompting a healthy chant of "Let's go, Rangers" at Prudential Center.
We're not sure, but some of those chanters might have been wearing Devils jerseys.