The title really sums it up the 2-1 loss. The Devils came out looking good, they didn't show any signs of fatigue, they were the better team on the ice for most part in the first periods, and they were still holding it down in the third period.
Then, within the last 8 minutes of the game, the Devils gave it away to Carolina.
To be honest and to take a step back first, the Devils were playing with fire. Elias got a great goal near the end of the first, and the Devils looked for that second one. Yes, the Carolina Hurricanes were outshooting the Devils by a substantial margin. Yet, most of those shots were at Martin Brodeur. Carolina was throwing the proverbial sink at Marty and either he made a routine save that the defense got to first or he made a fantastic save. Brodeur was on his A game tonight.
However, so was Cam Ward. While Carolina had the quantity, the Devils had better quality shots on net and scoring chances. Ward had to be on top and he truly was, robbing Zach Parise at least twice among other Devils. The Carolina defense wasn't particularly tough, best indicated by Bobby Holik being able to force himself through for a chance.
Yet, and this came apparent in the third period, the Devils couldn't get that second goal and it started to show. The shots and chances became less and less often and the unsaid message was, "Marty, I hope you feel like getting shutout #102 tonight!" A rather unfair expectation when you consider even the least productive team in the league still averages at least 2 goals per game.
Brodeur didn't fail tonight. But what was helping Brodeur out was the defense clearing out rebounds; and that did fail. David Clarkson (I think) made the stupid decision to clear the puck in the Devils' zone across the ice. The puck bouncess of the boards to Joe Corvo who takes a shot. Brodeur stops the shot; but Bryce Salvador just watches the rebound go past him. Sergei Samsonov did more than just watch it and he hammers it in for the equalizer.
The game winner came from a power play. Paul Martin hooks a Cane on his hands and gets 2 minutes for hooking. This is a hooking call that has been called since the lockout ended. The refs have been looking for that and have caught them for it. What was Martin thinking? On the ensuing power play, it's another rebound that the Devils don't get to first. Eric Staal puts it on net, Brodeur saves it, and Tuomo Ruutu flys in untouched to the rebound. A point-blank shot and that's the game winner.
The Devils' penalty killers weren't awful, they just had a lapse in their own zone. Just like Salvador had a lapse in their own zone. And when the margin for error is so thin, as it usually is with 1-0 games, it really is giving the game away. This loss wasn't due to the Devils playing poorly - they didn't do enough on offense, clearly in retrospect. You can't blame the refs, sure they missed some calls against New Jersey; but it wouldn't have changed what the Devils did and did not do.
No, the loss came directly from getting burned on lapses on defense. Brodeur and others (Holik had a good night. There, I said it.) had great games totally wasted. It's infuriating, frustrating, and disappointing all at the same time.
The Canes cruise on to their sixth straight win, much to the delight of the fans. I'm sure Canes Country will have an appropriate recap up soon enough. The Devils are now on a four game losing streak (not to mention the home game winning streak is now gone), an official slump with the way things have went in the last week. And this streak comes at the worst time: the next game is in MSG against Our Hated Rivals. For New Jersey, the game is no longer a must-win for rivalry's sake; but a must-win if the Devils want to end the slump (and confidently win the division, too).