The Devils were still trying to come to grips with what happened in the final 80 seconds of Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
"It's hard to accept a little bit," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "There's times in the day you look back and just can't believe it. I've never felt that too much before."
Some of the Devils watched the tape of the last 1:20, in which they gave up the tying and winning goals after leading 3-2. Some did not.
Devils coach Brent Sutter said he didn't need to watch the video.
"I've seen enough of it to know what happened," he said. "The bottom line is the tying and winning goal is lack of execution. It's no one's fault it happened, but at that stage everyone has to be aware of their assignments."
Sutter called it "the most devastating loss I've ever had as a coach or a player."
"I said to Lou [Lamoriello] this morning this was like a 100-yard dash for our first race," Sutter said. "I felt we got to the 99-yard mark and we fell down when we had the lead. There''s really no way to explain that."
Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said what happened still hadn't settled in for him.
"I don't think that's something that ever really settles in," he said. "Those are ones that you just don't forget. I guess the key is just to try to move on. Learn from it and move on."
Zach Parise was one of those who watched the video. He was on the ice for Jussi Jokinen's tying goal with 1:20 left. The Devils were trapped in their zone for a full minute without a stoppage before Jokinen finally scored.
"I think everybody has kind of replayed it in their mind, but what can you do now?" Parise said. "It's tough to watch. I've watched it. It makes you sick watching it."
Parise blocked a shot by Tim Gleason at the right point about seven seconds before Jokinen's goal.
"What do you do?" Parise asked. "You block a shot, it goes right to [Rod] Brind'Amour. There's so many things that happened. He passes between my legs and Gleason made a great play to keep it in the zone. There's so many things that happened there, it didn't seem like it was meant to be, I guess. I don't know. Gleason made a great play at the point and then it's over."
Gleason dove to keep the puck in at the blue line and then sent an elevated pass over the stick of a diving Langenbrunner to Joni Pitkanen at the left point. Pitkanen set up Jokinen for a one-timer from the right circle for the tying goal.
"He lifted it over my stick," Langenbrunner said. "We both dove and it went an inch, two inches [over his stick]. It was right there."
The Hurricanes seem to have the Devils' number in playoff games. In 2006, Eric Staal scored a tying goal with only three seconds remaining in regulation in Game 2 and the Hurricanes won on Niclas Wallin's overtime goal. In Game 4 of this year's series, Jokinen scored the winning goal with just 0.2 seconds left. Then, came Tuesday night's collapse.
"I don't know if it's a coincidence, but it always happens against them," Parise said. "Whether it's just bad luck, I don't know, but it just seems like they have that ability to pull off those unbelievable games against us for whatever reason. It doesn't get any easier. It's been some tough games against them."
Parise still has won only two playoff series in his career and is starting to get frustrated with not winning.
"We've been in this situation the last four years," Parise said. "Every year you say we've got to make sure this doesn't happen next year. I don't know. It's something that you never want to experience. There's only one team in the end that can win and there's 29 teams that are saying the same thing. That's why it's so competitive. But this organization has always been a winning one and we've got to get back on top soon here. I think we're all getting pretty tired of losing."
Some might suggest that Sutter being non-commital about returning next season was a distraction for the team, but it was a complete non-issue for this team. In fact, some players were shocked today when asked if they thought he'd back because it was the first they heard of it.
"Is that a question about whether he'll be coming back or not?" Langenbrunner asked. "I don't know anything about that...It was not a distraction. It' something he'll have to decide I guess and I'm sure he'll take the necessary time to make the right decision."
Langenbrunner was wearing a white T-shirt with a picture of the Hindenburg going in flames on it. He said it wasn't on purpose.
"I'm not trying to make a statement here or anything," he said. "I have no idea where this shirt came from."
Lamoriello would not share what he said to the players in a meeting before the team took its end of season photo.
"I think any time that you have a players meeting, it's something that should stay in the locker room," he said.
Lamoriello again defended Brodeur and said what happened in the final 1:20 was not the goaltender's fault.
"You cannot fault him on those goals by any means," ;Lamoriello said. "That would be very unfair and unfortunate if that happened because that's not the case."
ESPN's Barry Melrose was critical of Brodeur.
"They're good shots," Brodeur said. "Like I say to people who say they were soft goals, they never stopped a puck in their life."
I failed to mention earlier that Patirk Elias said he was completely healthy and seemed hurt by the suggestion that he might have been injured.
I wanted to add something about Travis Zajac. It says a lot about the huge step he took in his career this season that he would be asked by Team Canada to play in the World Chanpionships. A year ago, that would have been unthinkable.
Brodeur said he was not asked, but probably would not have gone anyway.