You didn't have to look far for the reasons for the Devils' downfall in tonight's 4-2 loss the Philadelphia Flyers at Wachovia Center.
The Devils allowed three power-play goals on three shorthanded chances and went 1-for-8 on their own power-play.
Jeff Carter's power-play deflection 55 seconds snapped a 2-2 tie and stood up as the game-winner.
The Devils have given up eight power-play goals on 12 times shorthanded in losing their last three road games. They've lost three of four overall since Martin Brodeur's record-breaking win over Chicago last Tuesday.
With Florida losing in overtime to Carolina tonight, the Devils could have clinched a playoff berth win a win. Now, they still need two points in their final nine games to clinch a playoff berth for the 12th consecutive season.
Making the playing shouldn't be a problem now, but Devils coach Brent Sutter knows that if his team doesn't straighten out its special teams play,it won't go very far in the postseason.
"I'm annoyed. I'm not worried," Sutter insisted. "I'm annoyed to see us playing like this when we're a better team than this on the road. At home, we've been fine. It's just our habits on the road. We've got to get that same attitude back on the road that we have at home. We had it before these last nine games, Outside of the Montreal game (a 3-1 win on March 14), which we were pretty darn good in, we've been pretty erratic on the road.
"It's the specialty teams. You can shake it and bake it all you want. Our specialty teams haven't done the job for us in the last little bit."
In losing back-to-back road games to the Flyers and Boston, the Devils allowed five power-play goals on seven chances and scored only one on 13 chances.
The Devils believed they controlled play five-on-five tonight. It was during shorthanded and power-play time that they were dominated.
The PK seemed especially disheartening to the Devils tonight because every time they took a penalty the Flyers scored.
"It's been like that the last couple of games," said Zach Parise. "In Boston and Carolina (a 4-2 loss six days ago) it was the same thing."
On the Flyers' first two power-play goals tonight, the Devils left players wide open on the back door for easy putaway behind a helpless Martin Brodeur.
"It's kind of obvious on the first two goals they scored there were guys wide open," Brodeur said. "It's just breakdowns. We have breakdowns in our own zone. You don;t clear the puck when it's time, you don't make the play and teams will make good plays. There's a lot of room out there and they found ways to get tap-in goals"
Before Mike Knuble's power-play goal that gaive the Flyers a 2-1 lead 4:45 into the second period, Johnny Oduya and Jamie Langenbrunner had chances to clear the bouncing puck and couldn't.
"The puck was on our stick two different times and it was bouncing and we didn't control it and then there's breakdowns," Sutter said.
Sutter pointed out that the loss of Colin White, who has missed four consecutive games with a lower-body injury, has hurt the PK. But it's more than that.
"We were very good on it at home," Sutter said. "Home we've been good. We just aren't doing the same things on the road. We've got probably our best penalty killer not playing right now in Whitey. That's one of his speciaties have been his whole career. Somebody else is trying to fill in those shoes and it's changing little things down our lineup...I'm not using it as an excuse, but it is someone we miss. You don't replace a player like that, especially the way he's played this year."
The Devils' power play has been nearly as bad. Tonight, it generated nothing during a four-minute high sticking against Daniel Carcillo in the third period.
"When get that double minor, you've got to get at least one (goal) or at least get a scoring chance," Parise said.
The Devils have nine regular season games left to find the answers and hold off the Flyers, who have closed within seven points of them for the Atlantic Division lead and have a game in hand.
"Any time of the season it's a concern, but here it gets magnified a bit and we realize we're nine games away from the playoffs and you want to be playing well going into the playoffs and obviously these last two games haven't been perfect," Langenbrunner said. "Nine games is plenty of games to correct what's wrong, but the key is to correct it soon. Otherwise, in nine games a lot of things can happen if we don't get it corrected. So, we need to get it corrected soon."
The regulation loss was only the Devils' fourth this season in a game in which they scored first (35-4-2).
The Devils and Flyers split the regular season series with each team going 3-2-1.