The New Jersey Devils didn't get off to the start they had hoped for following the holiday break.
The Buffalo Sabres' first performance after their short vacation was exactly what they needed.
New Jersey looks to avoid a third straight home loss in this matchup Wednesday night when the Sabres try to string together back-to-back wins for the first time in more than six weeks.
After rebounding from a season-worst four-game skid with a 7-2-0 run, the Devils (19-15-1) had their four-game road winning streak snapped Monday with a 4-2 loss to Carolina.
New Jersey killed all four Hurricanes power plays to improve its NHL-best percentage to 93.0, but the club allowed its league-high 11th short-handed goal, and Ilya Kovalchuk's errant pass in the final minute slid into the Devils' empty net.
"No one's going to feel sorry for us," Johan Hedberg said after making 30 saves in his first start in four games. "We've just got to keep plugging away. Tonight, they probably deserved it more than we did."
There is no doubt that the Sabres (17-15-3) deserved to win Monday. In fact, they felt the 4-2 margin over Washington could have been far greater after going scoreless in the final 45:46.
"You always want to get that first goal, and for us to get it that early was huge for the team," said Jason Pominville, who gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead 51 seconds into the game with his 12th goal. "To generate more chances and score more goals after that was big. We limited their chances, and probably could have put a few more away."
The Sabres, who last won two straight during a season-best 4-0-0 run Nov. 4-11, will face a Devils team that has surrendered three or more goals in a season-high five consecutive games.
Hedberg is 0-1-1 with a 5.15 goals-against average against Buffalo since joining the Devils prior to last season. Both defeats came at home, including a 5-4 shootout loss in the Sabres' last visit Nov. 10, 2010.
Martin Brodeur helped the Devils avoid a fourth consecutive loss in the series with 29 saves in a 5-3 victory at Buffalo on Nov. 16. He is 10-2-0 with a 1.72 GAA in his last 12 home starts against Buffalo.
Ryan Miller missed last month's meeting with a concussion - Jhonas Enroth was pulled in the third period and suffered his first loss of the season in that matchup - but Miller figures to make his seventh consecutive start following Monday's 20-save effort.
"I thought that was a great example of the type of hockey we've been talking about for a while," he said. "It was quick hockey, move the puck, and support each other. It showed in that first period where we got out of our zone clean, we got into their zone clean, we made things happen and got rewarded for it."
Miller, the 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner, is 3-0-2 with a 0.78 GAA in his last five starts in New Jersey, allowing no more than one goal each time.
Devils leading scorer Patrik Elias, who had a five-game point streak snapped Monday, had a goal and an assist in Buffalo last month. He is two assists shy of 500.
Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers scored twice Nov. 16, but he is still sidelined with a broken wrist suffered three days later. Buffalo, however, is gradually getting healthier, as Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht each returned from an injury Monday and contributed an assist.