Having their eight-game winning streak snapped was a letdown for the New Jersey Devils. A loss their next time out would certainly be a bigger one.
The Atlantic Division-leading Devils look to bounce back from their first defeat in more than three weeks Friday night when they face the lowly Atlanta Thrashers for the final time in 2008-09.
New Jersey (32-16-3) was trying for its first nine-game win streak since Nov. 17-Dec. 7, 2007 on Tuesday, but allowed three goals during the first 22:16 and lost 5-2 to visiting Washington.
Though the Devils own a four-point lead over the second-place New York Rangers in the Atlantic, they slipped further behind the Capitals for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
"It's disappointing," captain Jamie Langenbrunner, who has scored seven times during a four-game goal streak, told the Devils' official Web site. "You're not going to win every night, but I think we're liking the effort we're putting in every night. For whatever reason, (Tuesday night) we weren't as sharp."
That was especially true on the penalty kill. New Jersey had thwarted 35 of its opponents' 38 power-play chances in the previous 10 games, but Washington went 3-for-4 with the man advantage.
Short-handed situations might not be as costly for the Devils against the Thrashers, who are 1-for-25 on the power play over the last eight games.
New Jersey outscored teams 30-15 during its winning streak, and will look to get back on track offensively against Atlanta, which has allowed 182 goals - among the most in the NHL.
Langenbrunner has eight goals and seven assists in his last 11 contests, while Zach Parise - leading the Devils with 29 goals and 59 points - has four goals and five assists during a season-high seven-game point streak. He seven goals and four assists in his last 12 against the Thrashers (18-29-5), owners of one of the league's worst records.
New Jersey outshot visiting Atlanta 29-24 in the clubs' latest matchup, but the Thrashers came away with a 4-0 win Jan. 8. The Devils, 5-1-1 in the last seven matchups, won this season's first two meetings by a combined 7-1.
New Jersey has also won three in a row at Philips Arena.
After the January shutout of New Jersey, Atlanta yielded 32 goals in losing six of its next nine. On Tuesday night, however, the Thrashers beat the host New York Rangers 2-1 in a shootout to end a four-game losing streak.
Kari Lehtonen made 39 saves through overtime and turned aside both attempts he faced in the tiebreaker for Atlanta, which won for the first time since a three-game run from Jan. 16-20.
"We needed this badly," said center Bryan Little, who scored in the shootout. "We've been through a pretty rough time. The points aren't coming easy for us. It feels extra good to get the win."
Lehtonen seems likely to face the Devils again Friday after blanking them with 28 saves last month. He's 5-3-0 with a 2.83 goals-against average in eight matchups.
Scott Clemmensen has gone 7-1-0 with a 2.23 GAA in starting eight of New Jersey's last nine games, and has a 1.81 GAA and 1-1-0 record in two career appearances against Atlanta. He's recorded a 1.79 GAA while winning five straight road contests.