Even with a new head coach, the New Jersey Devils couldn't muster a winning effort.
Jacques Lemaire made his season debut as coach in a 5-1 loss against the New York Islanders at the Prudential Center tonight.
Lemaire replaced John MacLean, who was fired after a 9-22-2 start. The Devils' new head coach, who led the team to the playoffs last season, couldn't improve the Devils' play tonight. New Jersey compounded their poor play with untimely mistakes, helping to sink any chance of winning.
Josh Bailey started the scoring for the Islanders with two straight goals. The Isles' center broke a scoreless tie at 3:09 of the first period. Jamie Langenbrunner attempted a cross-ice pass in the defensive zone that Bailey picked off in the slot. Bailey put a backhanded shot over Martin Brodeur's glove for his fourth goal of the season.
The Isles' center extended the lead to 2-0 at 5:39 of the opening period. With Jason Arnott in the box for hooking, Andrew MacDonald fired a shot on goal. Bailey, screening Brodeur, deflected the puck to the ice. The Isles' center reached back and, while falling, pushed a backhand shot past a prone Brodeur for his second goal of the game.
John Tavares made it 3-0 at the 11 minute mark of the period. Travis Harmonic shot the puck from the right circle, and a rebound bounced off Brodeur's pads to the left circle. Tavares beat the Devils defense and fired the rebound past the blocker for his tenth goal of the season.
The Devils, however, wouldn't go quietly. After being outplayed, the Devils came back roaring in the second period. Travis Zajac broke the shutout at 1:21 of the middle period. Patrik Elias carried the puck into the Islanders zone and used a spinarama to get past MacDonald. The Devils' left-winger fired a backhanded shot on net that Roloson stopped. Zajac followed the rebound and fired it home for his fourth goal of the season.
Zajac's goal was the team's first 5-on-5 score in four games.
Then Dwayne Rolson took over.
The Islanders goalie, pressed into starting duty because Rick DiPietro was placed on injured reserve, stopped 15 of the 16 Devils shots in the second period. The Islanders also blocked 13 shots.
Frans Nielsen restored the three-goal lead, putting the Islanders ahead 4-1 at 10:43 of the middle period. With his team shorthanded, Bailey stripped Zajac at the point. He broke in on a breakaway, and was pushed into Brodeur by Ilya Kovalchuk. The puck sat loose near the crease as Brodeur tried to regain his balance. Nielsen raced in and fired the shot past Brodeur for his fifth goal of the season.
The shorthanded goal was the third for Nielsen, giving him a share of the league lead.
Blake Comeau stretched the lead to 5-1 at 3:15 of the third period. Robert Schremp held the puck near the end line and fed Comeau in the right circle. The Islanders right-winger one-timed the puck over Brodeur's glove for his seventh goal of the season.
Roloson finished with 34 saves for the win. Brodeur stopped nine pucks in the loss.
The loss dropped the Devils into last place in the league, a position usually reserved for the Islanders. At 9-23-2, New Jersey seems destined to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
The Devils have allowed five or more goals in five games this month. They've already allowed five-plus goals nine times this season...The Devils' powerplay went 0-for-4 tonight...With an assist tonight, Elias has six points in his last six games...Matt Moulson left the game in the first period after a hit from Anton Volchenkov. Moulson returned for one shift but was held out of game for precautionary reasons.