The Devils’ frustration level is rising.
On a night when the Jets, Rangers, Islanders and Capitals all won, New Jersey could only muster one goal in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at Prudential Center.
“There’s some frustration in not winning,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “We have to find a way to win games … that’s where the frustration lies.”
David Clarkson potted New Jersey’s lone goal, and Martin Brodeur stopped 16 shots, but the Devils lost their sixth-straight game, falling into three points behind eighth-placed Islanders with just 10 games left.
“It’s a big mountain to climb when you can’t score,” Brodeur said. “We’re not playing bad … it’s tough when you have chances and can’t come through.”
The Devils had five power-play opportunities, including a first-period two-man advantage for 1:04, but could not find a way to beat Toronto goalie James Reimer.
“We’ve got to cash in on the power play tonight,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to make hay this time of year when that opportunity comes.”
Reimer stopped 27 of 28, earning his 14th win of the season.
Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov each scored goals for Toronto. Bozak’s goal, the game winner, came on a breakaway at 8:02 of the third.
“He had a breakaway and shot it,” Brodeur said. “It just popped up, and I just missed it.”
Steve Sullivan, playing in his first game back in New Jersey, had a glorious first-period opportunity but was robbed by Reimer at the top of the crease.
“I think that’s one of those where nine out of 10 you’ll take the time needed to corral the puck and put it in the space it can go to,” Sullivan said. “I think … I was hoping more than just putting it in, especially being the first period of your first game back.”
Sullivan played 17:21 and was a minus-1 in his first game back in New Jersey.
“It was an adjustment,” Sullivan said. “The timing was a bit off, but as I get a few games under my belt, I think that will come.”
DeBoer said of Sullivan: “He gave us some good minutes tonight.”
New Jersey outshot Toronto 14-8 in the first period yet still trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Komarov re-directed Mark Fraser’s point shot at 3:49 of the first, giving the Leafs the lead. New Jersey had a number of chances but could not solve Reimer.
“We had a flurry of shots on net,” Sullivan said. “We carried the play in the offensive zone … I thought it was a great first period, but we were still down 1-0, so it was not the way we wanted to have a first period.”
DeBoer thought New Jersey could’ve been more desperate.
“We’ve got to find a way in that first period to get the first goal,” he said. “The table was set for us, and we could not take advantage of it.”
Clarkson’s goal broke up the Devils scoring drought at 143:36.
“It wasn’t for a lack of trying,” he said. “It’s just not going in right now.”
Forward Patrik Elias thinks New Jersey played well but simply didn’t get the desired result.
“The work ethic was there,” Elias said. “We created a lot of good chances.”
DeBoer said that Brodeur would play again Sunday in Buffalo against the Sabres.
Brodeur has played in eight straight since returning from a back injury. It sounds like Sunday will make that nine in a row.
The second-year coach also said he thinks the Devils can close the year with a win streak.
“I think we can win nine or 10,” he said.