ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Wild skated to another shootout, where they received a frustrating reminder of what they're missing: confidence, and a clone of Martin Brodeur.
Jamie Langenbrunner was the only successful shooter in New Jersey's 4-3 extra-time victory on Thursday night over Minnesota, which couldn't get anything by Brodeur after the second period.
The Wild are in a four-way fight for the Northwest Division, but they're also barely above the last of eight playoff spots in the Western Conference. They tried to preach the positive after getting one point against the latest Eastern Conference leaders, but their exasperation was tough to hide after losing in a shootout for the third straight game.
"I could see it. I could see it toward the overtime, but you have to try to control that," said coach Jacques Lemaire, who spent the week calling Brodeur the best goalie he's seen while answering numerous questions about the player he won a Stanley Cup with in 1995 with the Devils.
Brodeur fell behind 2-0 in the first period and 3-2 after Marian Gaborik's 35th goal with 14 seconds before the end of the middle frame, the seventh score against him in the last two games.
He was impenetrable after that, finishing with 34 saves plus three big stops in the shootout.
"I made a lot of saves, but I got real lucky, too," Brodeur said. "They threw a lot on net and a lot of weird bounces from the boards and even from tips and stuff. Sometimes you need that luck to survive, and it was definitely on our side."
Minnesota started overtime on a power play, but slap shots by Brian Rolston and Kurtis Foster bounced off the 10-time all-star's pads. In the shootout, after Langenbrunner faked left and went right to deke goalie Niklas Backstrom, Rolston's shot was way wide right.
"Any time we have Marty in net in the shootout," Langenbrunner said, "we like our chances."
Last season, the Wild were 10-7 in shootouts. They're 3-6 this season.
"It's just one of those things," Rolston said. "I know I've got to hit the net."
The Wild, who have beaten Lemaire's former team only once in eight tries since they joined the league in 2000, followed the coach's orders and peppered Brodeur with shots. They emerged with as much offensive energy as they've shown in weeks against a team that has given up fewer goals than any team except Detroit.
Stephane Veilleux extended his career-goals high to nine with a stick-side shot barely three minutes in, and Brent Burns gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead with a wide-open drive from the right faceoff dot.
It looked as though they might finally get those badly needed two points.
Instead, they settled again for one.
"That'd be nice, but it's good teams we're playing, too," Burns said. "So as long as we're playing good hockey, that's all that matters."
The Devils muscled their way back by taking advantage of a couple of defensive lapses and used the win to move from fourth place to first in the East.
Vitaly Vishnevski got his second goal of the season on a slap shot that grazed the crossbar, when Foster failed to move David Clarkson out of Backstrom's view. Brian Gionta scored later in the second.
After Gaborik's goal, set up by a slick backhanded pass from Mikko Koivu, Dainius Zubrus sliced across the slot unchecked by Koivu and tied the game again 5 1/2 minutes into the third.
"Our resiliency paid off," Devils coach Brent Sutter said.
The Wild need a little bit of that, as soon as possible. They're 3-5-4 in their last 12 games.
"Say the Wild are slipping and all that, but we're not slipping," Rolston said. "We're right there."
Notes: Langenbrunner, one of three Minnesotans on the Devils with top defenceman Paul Martin and leading scorer Zach Parise, had plenty of family members in attendance. Nervous? "I'm sure it was a lot more for my mom up in the stands than it was for me. She hates when I go in the shootout," he said. ... Martin returned after missing five games due to a bruised foot. Fellow blue-liner Colin White remained out with an upper-body injury. ... C Steve Kelly played again for Minnesota in place of Eric Belanger - who might miss the rest of the regular season because of a broken toe. Then Kelly hurt his left ankle in the second period and didn't return. Top prospect Benoit Pouliot was summoned from the minors to fill in and expected to join the team for Friday's practice.