The New Jersey Devils have struggled at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning in recent years. Maybe a change of venue can reverse that trend.
Following an unsuccessful debut at their new arena, the Devils try to avoid their longest winless stretch in nearly six years when they face the Lightning on Wednesday.
The first game at the new $380 million Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., was far from a memorable one for the Devils (3-6-1). After playing their first nine games of the season on the road while awaiting the arena's completion, New Jersey returned home Saturday only to lose 4-1 to Ottawa.
"We need to start figuring out ways to win games," said Brian Gionta, who scored the Devils' first and only goal at the Prudential Center. "There's no excuses: road trip, new arena; we've just got to win. We're not playing 60 minutes. That's the theme of the first 10 games."
It was the fourth straight loss for New Jersey, which has not gone winless in five consecutive games since a seven-game stretch from Nov. 10-Nov. 23, 2001. The final game in that span was a 2-0 loss at Tampa Bay, a defeat which began a stretch during which the Devils have won only four times in the last 21 meetings overall.
The Lightning (5-4-1) have won seven of their last eight games in New Jersey, scoring at least three goals every time. That record is fairly surprising considering the Devils have been very good at home in that span, finishing among the Eastern Conference's top three teams in home wins in five of the previous six seasons.
The early struggles of the Devils, who have not lost five straight since November 2000, come after the team won the Atlantic Division last season and finished second in the East with 107 points.
Martin Brodeur set an NHL single-season record with 48 wins, but he's off to a 2-6-0 start this season while posting a 3.28 goals-against average.
A lack of offense hasn't helped Brodeur, with the Devils totaling just 22 goals. Only the New York Rangers have scored fewer (19) among Eastern teams.
New Jersey has been limited to four goals in its last four games, going 1-for-18 on the power play.
"We've got a new group of players in that locker room who are adjusting to how we want them to play," first-year Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "And those players who've been here in the past, they've got to find a way to do better. I'm tired of all the excuses."
Sutter publicly called out left wing Patrik Elias after Thursday night's 2-0 loss to Rangers, and after Saturday's game he again questioned his players' effort, though he didn't name names. Elias broke a three-game pointless drought with an assist on Saturday.
New Jersey eliminated Tampa Bay in six games in a first-round playoff series last season, but the Lightning opened this season with a 3-1 win over the Devils on Oct. 4 behind Vincent Lecavalier's two goals.
Lecavalier, tied for the team lead with 12 points, scored a goal on the road for the first time this season on a penalty shot Monday but the Lightning lost 3-1 to the Rangers.
Tampa Bay has been outscored 18-9 while losing all four of its road games in regulation. The only other Eastern team yet to record a road win is the Rangers.
Johan Holmqvist made 32 saves Monday, but allowed two power-play goals in the third period.
"Our goalie gives us a chance after two periods and we can't put 20 minutes of disciplined, hard hockey together," Lightning coach John Tortorella said in an expletive-filled tirade. "We don't deserve anything. We spend more time looking at referees for calls, instead of playing.
"It's very frustrating to see one guy show up."
With Marc Denis on injured reserve because of a groin strain, Holmqvist will likely start again. Holmqvist is 3-1-0 with a 1.23 GAA in four starts against the Devils.
Brodeur is 24-14-2 with five ties and a 2.03 GAA in his career against Tampa Bay, but is 4-10-2 with three ties and a 2.55 GAA in 19 meetings since Dec. 4, 2001.
Lecavalier has 13 goals and 15 assists in 33 games against the Devils.