Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner showed the effects tonight of going nine days without playing a game because of a lower-body injury.
He played 24 shifts for 16:26 in ice time, had two shots on goal and was on the ice for one goal against.
"I felt fine,” he said. “My timing was a little off, but everything else was good. It’s not the way I envisioned it, but we’ve got another game and another opportunity. We saw how desperate and how hard they’re going to play and we’ve got to bring that type of intensity to our game.”
Devils coach Brent Sutter said Langenbrunner got better as the game went on.
“That’s why I played him so much, to try to get him back in the flow of things,” Sutter said. “Especially when we got down three, you’re thinking, ‘Oh well, if this doesn’t work out tonight, we’ve got to have him ready for Game 7."
Langenbrunner failed to bring a spark to the team's top line, though. Linemates Zach Parise and Travis Zajac went without a point for the third game in a row.
“It’s Jamie’s first game back,” Sutter said. “He’s been out for a week. At times, that line looked in sync and at times they tried to do too much and tried to force things and got themselves in trouble a little bit because of it."
The Hurricanes have been more physical with Parise and Zajac and given them little room to make plays since Zajac scored the OT winner in Game 3.
"Zach and Trav, they're obviously very good hockey players and tonight I thought again their play was not the level you need it to be," Sutter said. "It's that time of year where you've got to fight through things and you're going to have to pay a price. They've obvously played them very close and carefully and they've done a good job against them, but they've got to fight through some things, too."
"We weren't good enough tonight," Parise said of the team's play. "We've got to be a better team in Game 7. We were easy to play against tonight."
The Devils had done a very good job of holding Eric Staal in check through the first five games of the series, but he finally broke out with two goals and an assist. Entering the night, Staal had two goals and no assists and only one even-strength point -- a goal in Game 4 -- in the series.
Defenseman Colin White and Mike Mottau struggled against him tonight, though. Staal's line with Ray Whitney (one goal, three assists) and Chad Larose (two assists) comined for nine points.
"They used the back of the net pretty well on the first goal," Mottau said. "We've been trying to limit their time in the offensive zone and they seemed to be cycling the puck a little bit better. We just have to be aware of that and take the body and stop the cycles."
If there was a turning point for the Devils tonight -- or a point that could have been one -- it was when they failed to convert on two power plays late in the first period when they were still trailing only 1-0. They failed to manage a shot on goal during either power play. Then, Staal broke the game open with two goals in a span of 2:46 in the second period.
"Our power play was brutal," Sutter said. "We didn't even get a shot on net in two power plays. But that's a reflection of the way our whole game was. There was no sense of urgency on it."
The other key moment was Dainius Zubrus' retaliatory roughing penalty on Dennis Seidenberg 45 seconds into the second period. The Devils actually had a strong first shift and pinned the Hurricanes in their zone for most of it, but then Zubrus took that penalty and, though the Hurricanes didn't score on it, they built more momentum on the resulting power play.
"We started fine in the second," Sutter said. "We had the puck in their zone and then we took a bad penalty that you can't take and then they created momentum off that and we were back on our heels a little bit. You guys saw the game. It wasn't a good performance as far as what our standards are and what's expected. They played a hell of a hockey game and we didn't play a very good game."
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice on Staal's play tonight:
"It do sense that all great players sense the most critical times to play their best. That's why they're great. They have the ability to elevate their game. I don't know that there's a huge difference. He's had some of those shots that he made tonight and he's had them the whole series. He's just missed the post. He had one in the 1-0 game (in Game 5) that just missed the other side."