The New Jersey Devils followed up a disheartening loss with a victory in their last game. Coach Jacques Lemaire was not happy with either performance.
Lemaire looks for a more complete effort from the Eastern Conference leaders as they try to avoid a third straight defeat to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.
New Jersey (29-10-1) got back on track after a 5-1 loss at Chicago on Thursday, defeating Minnesota -- Lemaire's former team -- 5-3 on Saturday. Jamie Langenbrunner recorded his first career hat trick to power the Devils, who have not lost consecutive games since a three-game skid from Nov. 16-21.
"It's definitely been a good start to 2010 for me," said Langenbrunner, the former Stars player who was named to U.S. Olympic team the previous day and has a three-game goal streak and four-game point streak.
The demanding Lemaire, however, was not thrilled with what he saw as sloppy play by his team. New Jersey went up 2-0 in the second period but blew the lead, and was outshot 32-25.
"Just a bad game. No puck control," Lemaire said while also praising Martin Brodeur for his steady goaltending. "We complicated the game a little too much."
The victory, though, pushed the Devils' lead in the Atlantic Division to six points over sliding Pittsburgh. New Jersey will try to increase that advantage when they face the Stars, which took the last two overall meetings at Dallas but have lost four in a row in New Jersey.
The Stars (18-12-11) failed to win a season-high third straight in their last game, falling 3-1 to Vancouver on Saturday. Loui Eriksson tied it 37 seconds into the third period with his fifth goal in three games, but Daniel Sedin answered 2:01 later and Dallas lost despite outshooting the Canucks 14-7 in the period and 32-27 overall.
"I thought we could have been a little bit more determined, had a little bit more of a playoff style, a to-the-net game, be a little bit more direct," Stars coach Marc Crawford told the team's official Web site. "I think our best period was our third period."
Crawford's team scored five goals in each of the previous two contests before being shut down by Vancouver's Roberto Luongo.
Dallas had won three in a row at home, but the Stars went 0-2-2 in their last four road games and 1-4-3 in their previous eight. They allowed 15 goals in their last three games away from Dallas.
The Stars won the first matchup of the season with the Devils 5-3 on Nov. 21. Dallas took advantage of a rare start by Brodeur's backup Yann Danis, grabbing a 3-1 lead in the first period and chasing Danis after 20 minutes.
Stephane Robidas had two goals and two assists for Dallas, which went on to win despite blowing that advantage.