NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils have been skating on thin ice in the standings since late March and the Boston Bruins may have pushed them through their breaking point by handing them their eighth straight loss, 5-4, on Wednesday night before a sellout crowd of 17,625 at the Prudential Center.
“We have eight games left. There are no other words for it. Close isn’t good enough,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “We came out and created some power-play opportunities and you guys saw what happened, two short-handed goals. It can’t happen. I’m speechless. You have two choices, you roll over and die or you get up tomorrow and find a way to turn one win into six or seven or whatever it’s going to take.”
Gregory Campbell knocked in a rebound off a Jaromir Jagr shot just 1:10 into the game before Daniel Paille and Campbell each scored a short-handed goal, at 4:51 and 8:12 respectively, as the Bruins (29-9-4) moved to a 3-0 lead. The disastrous start for the Devils (15-15-10) led to hometown boos as the teams headed into the first break.
The Devils hadn’t lost eight in a row since 1992 and the current slide of 0-4-4 has put New Jersey on the brink of playoff elimination with eight games to go. The Devils were the 2012 Stanley Cup runner-up to the Los Angeles Kings last season. New Jersey is in 10th place with 40 points, behind the Rangers with 44 and the Jets with 42.
Andy Green’s goal 5:58 into the third period had brought the Devils to within 4-3, but that momentum soon disappeared when the Bruins struck at 7:33 on a goal by Tyler Seguin. Paille’s pass from behind the net found the stick of Seguin, who pushed it underneath a sprawling Martin Brodeur for Boston’s fifth goal.
“We had points in the game where I thought we were doing a great job of dominating and then obviously points where they had all the momentum and before that goal they definitely did,” Sequin said. “The way the game started was weird. Once we had a 3-0 lead, we took the foot off the gas and they came back and almost stole one.”
Matt D’Agostini scored for the Devils with 37 seconds showing and came with Brodeur pulled for an extra skater. In the game, the Devils were 0 for 8 on the power play.
The only positive of the first period for the Devils was when Brodeur stopped Johnny Boychuik’s penalty shot.
There didn’t seem to be any doubt about the outcome after defenseman Zdeno Chara scored 3:06 into the second for a 4-0 Boston bulge.
“Them taking penalties cost us the game,” Brodeur said. “I don’t know what happened, we didn’t get any chances (out of the power play) and they got two short-handed goals and a penalty shot. That was the difference in the game. You want to be as positive as you can in a negative atmosphere and it’s not easy to do.”
The Devils tried to climb back in the second. Patrick Elias connected for his 11th goal of the season off a shot taken by Steve Sullivan at 11:07 to make it 4-1 and Travis Zajac made it 4-2 at 18:12 with an unassisted short-handed goal. Zajac used a poke check to knock the puck between two Bruins and won a race to the goal, beating Boston’s Anton Khudobin for his sixth goal. It was the Devils’ league-leading 11th short-handed goal.
“We knew they were going to be a desperate team,” Campbell said. “We sat on our lead, got comfortable a little bit. Give them credit, they worked hard to get back in the game.”
The Devils were sloppy defensively from the start, failing to clear the puck before Jagr took control and fired at Brodeur, who made the initial stop before Campbell banged in the rebound just 70 seconds into the action.
Then, while on a power play, Sullivan of the Devils tried to make a cross-ice pass that Rich Peverley picked off and sent to Paille for the Bruins’ first short-handed goal of the game. Campbell scored the second short-handed goal when he redirected a shot through the crowd by Andrew Ference. Brodeur never moved as Campbell touched it inside the near post.
Jagr’s shot from the side was nearly knocked into the goal by David Krejci, but Brodeur got a piece of the puck before Chara shoved it home for the four-goal lead.
NOTES: Devils captain, defenseman Bryce Salvador, is doubtful for Friday’s home game against Ottawa after he was hit in the arm by a shot taken by Boston’s Zdeno Chara. Salvador left the ice 2:59 into the second period and did not return. “He’s pretty banged up,” DeBoer said. “You stand in front of a Chara slap shot, it takes a lot of guts to do that and that’s why he’s our captain.” … For the third straight home game, the Devils gave up an early goal when Campbell scored at the 1:10 mark for the Bruins. On April 1, the Islanders scored 52 seconds into the game and went on to a 3-1 victory. Last Saturday, the Maple Leafs connected at the 3:49 mark of their 2-1 win. … Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk skated for the second straight day, but there is still no word on when he’ll take the ice for real. It can’t happen soon enough for the Devils since everything has gone downhill since Kovalchuk injured his right shoulder on March 23. Without Kovalchuk, the Devils have been outscored 27-16, and going 3 of 30 on the power play. … The Bruins now own a seven-game winning streak against the Devils, including a 1-0 shutout by goalie Tuukka Rask on April 4 in Boston when Jagr scored in his first game for the Bruins with a puck that bounced off his skate and beat New Jersey’s Brodeur. … The last time the Devils topped the Bruins was a 3-2 victory on April 10, 2010 … The Devils and Islanders will play the first NHL game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn when they meet in a preseason game set for Sept. 21. It will be the home ice for the Islanders starting in 2015.