No wonder Devils coach Larry Robinson thinks this team is strange.
The Devils began Friday night's game against the Colorado Avalanche with a terrible first period in which they fell behind by three goals.
Then, in a display of the bipolar personality that has so confounded their head coach, the Devils scratched and clawed their way back even to force overtime and, then, a shootout.
They could not complete their comeback, however, as the Avalanche won the shootout, 1-0, in seven rounds to claim a 4-3 victory at Continental Arena.
Antti Laaksonen, Colorado's seventh shooter, lifted a backhand over goaltender Martin Brodeur to break the deadlock. Then, Avalanche rookie goaltender Vitaly Kolesnik ended it by making a glove save on Jamie Langenbrunner.
The Devils are 2-2 in shootouts this season. After Wednesday's 4-1 loss to Calgary, the Devils' inconsistency prompted Robinson to remark, "This is the strangest team I've ever been around."
He probably didn't feel any better about it after the Devils fell behind, 3-0, and were booed as they left the ice for the first intermission.
They got back in the game in the second period, however, with goals from Jay Pandolfo and Brian Gionta. Scott Gomez tied it 10:09 into the third, deflecting Richard Matvichuk's shot from the right point past Kolesnik's glove.
The Avalanche scored twice on three power plays in the first period to jump out to a 3-0 lead. That made it six power-play goals against in 10 times short-handed for the Devils over a three-game span.
Any hope the Devils had of getting off to a strong start disappeared when defenseman Vladimir Malakhov took an interference penalty by knocking down Brad May in front of the New Jersey net two minutes into the game.
The Avalanche grabbed the lead on the resulting power play with Andrew Brunette backhanding home his own rebound at 3:31. Brunette walked out of the right corner with the puck untouched and tried to stuff the puck past Brodeur. Brodeur made a pad save, but couldn't control the rebound and Brunette got to it first.
Joe Sakic made it, 2-0, at 16:29, converting a centering pass from Milan Hedjuk for his 12th of the season. Sakic's initial shot was blocked by Devils defenseman Brian Rafalski, but the puck bounced back to him and he swatted his second effort past Brodeur on the glove side.
Brunette struck for another power-play goal, converting the rebound of a deflection by Marek Svatos with 1:19 remaining in the first.
The Devils were able to work their way back into the game, however, with a solid second period.
Pandolfo started the comeback with his sixth of the season at 5:49. After taking a pass from Alexander Mogilny at the Colorado blue line, Pandolfo burst between Avalanche defensemen Patrice Brisebois and Laaksonen and beat Kolesnik under the catching glove.
Only 1:23 later, Gionta capitalized on a fortunate bounce to score a power-play goal that cut it to 3-2. When Gomez dumped the puck in along the right wing boards from the Colorado blue line, Kolesnik headed behind the net to stop it. The puck struck a seam in the boards, however, and ricocheted in front to Gionta, who deposited it into the empty net for his team-leading 17th goal of the season.
The Devils appeared poised to tie the game when Laaksonen took a double-minor for high sticking at 8:33, but their power play failed them again, and they didn't register a shot on goal during the four-minute man advantage.
In other NHL action: Detroit 4, Washington 3; Atlanta 5, Columbus 2; Vancouver 3, Ottawa 2 (SO).