This wasn't staying close against Ottawa or coming back from three goals down before losing to Colorado in a shootout.
Against a dreadful Columbus Blue Jackets team that has only four wins in regulation all season, the only acceptable result would have been victory. But the Devils blew two leads and wasted seven power-play opportunities in a 3-2 overtime defeat.
Columbus defenseman Bryan Berard scored the winning goal with 13.6 seconds remaining in the extra session, sending the Devils home with a four-game losing streak and with one point instead of the two they so desperately needed.
"Well, we got a point," Devils coach Larry Robinson said. "That's the only positive thing I can really say. We can't let games like this slip away. We're playing against a team that's played three games in four nights and we didn't take advantage of the power plays that we had."
The Devils' power play has been letting them down for more than two weeks. They went 0-for-7 Sunday, including a 5-on-3 in the opening minute of the third period, extending their man-advantage slump to 2-for-46 over the last seven-plus games. Their power-play failures were accentuated when Columbus' Nikolai Zherdev scored a power-play goal 4:35 into the third period to tie the game at 2
"We have the opportunity to win every night," said goaltender Martin Brodeur, who made 36 saves to keep the Devils in the game. "It's just we don't execute the right way to win games. You have a 5-on-3 for 48 seconds with the faceoff in their zone. That's a guaranteed goal to a certain extent and we're just shooting ourselves in the foot."
The Devils talked as if they had figured something out after rallying from 3-0 down before losing, 4-3, in a shootout to Colorado on Friday. And they took a similar "silver lining" take on their 5-4 loss in Ottawa on Nov. 19.
But moral victories can't help the Devils in the standings, where they are 10th in the Eastern Conference with 30 points and a 13-12-4 record.
The Devils grabbed the lead on defenseman Paul Martin's first goal of the season 10:36 into the game. Martin moved in from the left point to chip a pass from Jamie Langenbrunner over the catching glove of goaltender Marc Denis.
The Devils had a chance to build on their lead with two power plays early in the second, but couldn't cash in. Then, Zherdev tied it 11:03 into the second.
Blue Jackets right wing David Vyborny pressured defenseman Richard Matvichuk into coughing up the puck inside to the Devils blue line. Zherdev gobbled it up, moved into the left circle and beat Brodeur low on the short side.
Brian Gionta put the Devils back ahead, though, scoring on a backhander from in front with 3:06 remaining in the second. The Devils' power-play woes continued, though, failing on two more opportunities, including the 5-on-3, before Madden fired the puck into the stands for a delay of game penalty 3:38 into the third.
Zherdev made them pay, putting home the rebound of Berard's shot from the right point.
It appeared the Devils were headed for their second shootout in a row until Berard took a pass from Sergei Fedorov, cut around Martin in the right circle and beat Brodeur between the legs. With the win, the Blue Jackets improved to 5-0 in overtime and shootout games. They are 4-20 in regulation.
"We didn't seem like we had our legs for some reason," Robinson said. "We played lethargic. Especially in the first period, we had chances to get the puck deep and just made soft plays."
In other NHL action: Phoenix 2, Boston 1; Chicago 5, Atlanta 4, OT; Buffalo 3, Minnesota 2.