Howe, who had played in just five of the Flyers' 14 games before last night, scored his first goal since Jan. 27, 1990, in the first period.
The 10-year Flyers veteran, who played in just 59 games over the last two seasons because of herniated disks in his back, added his second goal less than three minutes later.
But Howe's teammates couldn't convert on any of their 36 other shots, so his best performance in nearly two years went for naught.
"It doesn't matter," Howe said of his first two-goal game since Nov. 28, 1989. "The only thing that matters is that we didn't win the hockey game. It's nice to score. It will help me confidence-wise, but it was a big game for us to lose."
Of course, much of the credit for the Flyers' failure must go to Devils goalie Chris Terreri. The Flyers plastered him with hard shots throughout the game, but he faltered only twice. And those were on Howe's nearly unstoppable shots.
"They had better goaltending tonight," Flyers coach Paul Holmgren said. ''We're just not finishing the chances we're getting. It's tough for me to be critical of anyone. We played with the Devils; we didn't score with them."
Said Flyers winger Pelle Eklund of Terreri, "He played good, but it's up to us to put the puck in the net."
Leading, 3-2, going into the third period, the Devils scored an insurance goal at 12 minutes, 22 seconds when left winger Claude Vilgrain intercepted a pass and scored his second goal of the game from in the slot. New Jersey's Peter Stastny ended the scoring with a goal with 1:52 left to play.
The Devils went into the game with the fourth-best power play in the NHL, and they showed the Flyers, who were ranked last, how it was done. They scored on their first two advantages and finished 2 for 5.
After Scott Stevens scored on New Jersey's initial power play in the first period, Claude Lemieux scored on their next one at 4:45 of the second.
With Rick Tocchet in the penalty box for cross-checking, Bruce Driver threw a wrist shot from the point at Flyers goalie Ron Hextall. Hextall blocked that shot, but Lemieux was right there at the left post to get the rebound and nudge the puck in for his 11th goal of the season. That put the Devils ahead, 3-2.
The Flyers, 9 for 84 on the power play going in, had a five-minute advantage that began at 11:23 of the second period when Devils center Kevin Todd poked Eklund in the eye with his stick and was ejected from the game.
But the best the Flyers could do was two unsuccessful chances by Eklund in the slot, a follow-up by Rod Brind'Amour and a slapshot by Dan Quinn that hit Terreri in the face.
The Flyers were 1 for 4 on the power play.
The Devils took a 2-0 lead in the 14th minute of the first period when Stevens scored his fourth goal of the season. But the Flyers rallied for two goals, both by Howe, in the final four minutes.
Vilgrain gave the Devils a 1-0 lead at 10:26 when he beat defenseman Corey Foster, who was making his NHL regular-season debut for the Flyers after breaking his collarbone on Sept. 25, and Hextall on a shot from the right circle. As all four of his teammates skated off for a line change, Vilgrain shook off a poke check by Mike Ricci and blasted a shot that sailed high past Foster and Hextall.
Stevens put the Devils ahead by two goals just over 3 1/2 minutes later, at 13:57, when he raised his stick to waist level in the slot and directed a power-play shot by teammate Eric Weinrich past Hextall. The Flyers argued that Stevens raised his stick higher than his shoulder, the legal limit, but referee Terry Gregson did not buy it.
A tripping penalty on Brad Jones had put the Devils on the power play.
After that, it was all Howe. With eight seconds left on the Flyers' first power play, the veteran defenseman took a pass from Eklund in the slot and blasted a shot high and just inside the left post. Defenseman Gord Murphy also picked up an assist on the goal, which came at 16:19.
Howe and Eklund hooked up on another nice play, at 19:15, when Eklund passed to Howe low in the slot, and Howe beat a diving Terreri with a backhander at the right post. Quinn started the play by leading Eklund perfectly into the Devils' zone with the initial pass.
"The Devils were collapsing on the forwards a lot and leaving the defensemen wide open a lot, " Howe said. "After that (goal), they started putting a guy on me."
Said Holmgren of Howe, "He's still one of the best defensemen in the league. He proved what a force he can be when he's healthy."
If only he had had some help last night.