Red Wings Hand Devils First Defeat In Eight Games

-- Thoughts on Jacques LeMaire announcing he won't return as Devils coach next season. -- See In Lou We Trust for complete discussion and analysis

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Red Wings 3, Devils 1: First Loss In Eight Games For New Jersey

The New Jersey Devils (16-30-3) entered tonight's game winless at Joe Louis Arena since 1996.

The Detroit Red Wings (30-13-6) made sure that streak continued.

Detroit used two third period goals to defeat the Devils, 3-1, in both team's final game before the All-Star break.

The loss snaps a four game win streak for the Devils. In the past eight games, New Jersey went 6-1-1, they're best stretch of games this season.

Valtteri Filppula's goal at 5:32 of the third period proved to be the game-winner. Jiri Hudler sent a pass cross-ice to the right circle that Filppula one-timed past a diving Martin Brodeur for his 12th goal of the season.

The Devils appeared to tie the game with 2:28 left in the final period. Ilya Kovalchuk crashed the net, attempting to poke the puck loose from Red Wings' goalie Jimmy Howard. Howard's pad slid into the back of the net, dragging the puck along with it. Kovalchuk raised his arms in celebration, but the referees quickly disallowed the goal.

Video replays seemed to show the puck cross the line before Howard's pad slid into the goal. That could have tied the game and gave the Devils a chance at least a point.

"I've seen a lot of goals like that in my little career that wasn't called (off)," Devils' coach Jacques Lemaire told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record.

"He (referee Dave Jackson) waved it off right away and said I pushed the goalie's pad," Kovalchuk said to Gulitti.

A four minute double-minor to Brian Rolston helped submarine the Devils' comeback efforts. Rolston, skating out of his own zone, accidentally hit Patrick Eaves with the butt end of his stick. Play continued for about 10 seconds afterward without a call. Only after a stop by Howard did the referees decide to hand Rolston a penalty.

The delay irked Lemaire.

"The one that I'm very surprised on was the four minutes," Lemaire told Gulitti. "There was no call, nothing and we nearly scored. What would have happened if we would have scored? Call the goal back? And then three of the top players in the National Hockey League went and talked to them and then all of the sudden we got four minutes (of penalty time)."

"It was called by the linesman," Rolston confirmed with Gulitti. "Both of the referees didn't call it and then after the fact the linesman said that I got him. That's a tough one because then we've got our guys killing for the next four minutes."

Johan Franzen extended the lead to 3-1 with 44 seconds left in the game. Henrik Zetterberg spun at the side boards and sent a backhand pass to Franzen in the slot. The Red Wings' left-winger fired the puck past Brodeur for his 21st goal of the season.

The Devils and Red Wings traded chances in the first period, ending with a 1-1 tie.

Darren Helm opened the scoring 1:43 into the first period. Mark Fraser attempted a pass at his blue line that Helm picked off. The Red Wings' center moved in on Brodeur alone and roofed the puck  over Brodeur's glove for his sixth goal of the season.

The Devils had scored the first goal in their previous five games.

Rolston responded at 6:35 to tie the game at one. Anton Volchenkov fired a puck on goal that Howard had trouble controlling. A rebound skittered to the right of Howard's pads, and Volchenkov tried to whack the puck in. A scrum of players closed on the net, and Rolston banked a shot off of Nicklas Lidstrom and into the net for his sixth goal of the season.

The Devils enter the All-Star break last in the league with 35 points. It's a far cry from their usual stellar play, and Lemaire understands that. But he believes there are positives from their recent run.

"I'm seeing positives, there's no doubt," he told Gulitti. "There's certain guys that they have to play better. They have to play better It's that simple. You've got to touch the puck in a game. You've got to make a play in a game. And I'm talking about a few guys. If we get these guys going, we'll be ok."

Game Notes

Andy Greene, a Trenton, Michigan native, played his first NHL game at Joe Louis Arena...Both Rolston and Patrick Elias extended their point streaks to five games...Brodeur finished with 26 saves, Howard with 23...Elias will be the only Devils representative at the All-Star game.

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