"If you look at tonight, obviously, the end results are not what you wanted, but I thought the guys played extremely hard," said Interim Head Coach Alain Nasreddine. "The first 40, we didn't get rewarded. Then things unraveled there a little bit in the second period. And that was the story of the game."
Cam Atkinson scored first at 14:49 of the opening frame, leading a 2-on-2 rush down the ice and sniping one from the high slot. It was his 11th tally of the season, assisted by Nathan Gerbe and David Savard.
The Devils biggest issue in the first wasn't their own play. It was the play of opposing goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped all 21 of New Jersey's shots on goal. Some of his saves were made in dramatic, desperate fashion.
The Devils continued their relentless attack in the second, increasing their shot total to 29 in the opening nine minutes of the second. But Merzlikins kept turning the Devils away.
Atkinson made New Jersey pay for their failure to break through, scoring his second of the game at 8:40 of the second, assisted by Emil Bemstrom and Alexander Wennberg.
At the midway point of the middle frame, the Devils led in shot attempts 44-20 and shots 31-13. Their attack just continued to hit a wall.
The floodgates then opened for Columbus.
Jakob Lilja scored unassisted at 11:58 of the second to increase the lead to 3-0. Just 16 seconds later, Nick Foligno scored to make it 4-0. What seemed like a promising start in team play deteriorated quickly.
Cory Schneider exited the game and was replaced by Mackenzie Blackwood in net for the Devils.
Unfortunately, that did nothing to slow down Columbus' second-period storm. Wennberg made it 5-0 with his fifth goal of the season at 18:54 of the second.
The Devils finished the game with about 70 shot attempts and 41 that got through, but no goals.
"We did a lot of good things and, just at the end, it just really sucks. It's just frustrating the way that game ended," said Devils forward Nico Hischier.
The Devils head into the All-Star Break having lost three straight games. They return to action on Monday, Jan. 27 against the Senators in Ottawa.