Gionta celebrates his OT-winning goal against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night.
newjerseydevils.com (Feb. 13) – Brian Gionta picked the perfect time to get his name back on the scoresheet.
Gionta's first goal since Jan. 10 proved huge in more ways than one, lifting the Devils to a 3-2 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators at Prudential Center on Wednesday night.
The tally not only capped New Jersey's first win in three meetings this season against the defending Eastern Conference champions, but also ended a long drought for one the Devils' most valuable offensive assets.
Gionta had gone 13 games without a goal before he buried Jamie Langenbrunner's rebound past Martin Gerber for his 14th at 2:14 of the extra session.
The former 48-goal scorer chipped the puck past recent Ottawa acquisition Cory Stillman at the Senators' blue line and fired a shot from the right circle that was knocked down by Chris Phillips.
Langenbrunner controlled and threw a backhander on net that Gerber stopped, but Gionta was right in front to notch the winner.
"Brian has been playing very well the past few games," head coach Brent Sutter said. "Tonight he battled – he was in tough areas. He's been doing that of late and getting scoring opportunities.
"You always say as a coach that you want your players to be very responsible, both defensively and on the right side of the puck. He's had scoring opportunities; the puck just hasn't been going in. Tonight, he scored a big goal."
Martin Brodeur (30-19-3) made 23 saves, including one in overtime, to move within one win of San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov for the league lead. Brodeur's 524th career victory leaves him 27 shy of Patrick Roy's all-time mark of 551.
New Jersey (32-21-4) gained important ground on Pittsburgh, which lost at home to Boston. The Devils trail the Penguins by one point for first place in the Atlantic Division and extended their lead to three points over third-place Philadelphia.
Winners of four of their last five in the Garden State, the Devils wrap up the four-game homestand against Atlanta on Friday, then close out the season series against the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday.
The last time the Devils met the Senators, they had just returned home from their season-opening nine-game road trip. New Jersey had already dropped a 4-2 decision in Ottawa, and would fall 4-1 in their first game at Prudential Center.
Langenbrunner had not yet returned to the lineup and Colin White also remained sidelined. The club wouldn't begin its season-high nine-game winning streak for another three weeks.
But Sutter's group had a much better showing against the Eastern Conference leaders this time, rallying from an early deficit.
Luke Richardson's second of the season from Jason Spezza and Dean McAmmond gave Ottawa the game's first lead.
Richardson's point shot redirected off the leg of David Clarkson near the blue line, and knuckled through Brodeur at 5:25 of the first period.
John Madden had a chance to even the score on a shorthanded breakaway with 33 seconds left in the first. Stillman whiffed on a pass attempt at the Ottawa point, and Madden swooped in to turn the play into Senators territory.
Madden shouldered off Wade Redden at the Senators' blueline, but was denied with a right-toe save by Gerber.
Paul Martin was in the box for hooking Dany Heatley when Langenbrunner struck for his 10th of the season, and first shorthanded.
Elias pressured Andrej Meszaros at the Ottawa point, and after Langenbrunner blocked Meszaros' pass, Elias poked the puck ahead to the Devils captain to create a 2-on-1 rush.
Langenbrunner fired a slapper from the top of the left circle that beat Gerber shortside at 6:12 for just the second shorthanded tally allowed by Ottawa this season. Elias recorded the primary assist and finished the contest with two helpers
Rachunek's fourth of the year 1:52 later put New Jersey ahead.
Parise dug out a Redden turnover in the corner, and turned to find Rachunek at the right hash marks in the slot. Rachunek beat Gerber for his third goal in the last five games and a 2-1 Devils lead at 8:04.
An excellent sequence by Brodeur temporarily protected the one-goal edge with 6:06 left in the second.
A Chris Neil hit on Johnny Oduya created a 2-on-1 down low with Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly against White.
Brodeur dove to his left to stop Kelly's one-timer, then got a glove up against Kelly's follow up of his own rebound.
Randy Robitaille knotted the contest at 2-2 with a blast from inside the left circle that beat Brodeur over his left shoulder at 15:29 of the second period.
It took the Devils 12:25 to record their first shot on goal in a sluggish third period, which featured two power play opportunities. New Jersey finished the evening 0-for-6 with the man advantage.
The Devils remained perfect in overtime on home ice (3-0), and improved to 3-2 in OT overall.
Gionta's goal was his third GWG of the season... Wednesday's scratches were Sheldon Brookbank, Andy Greene and Rod Pelley.
Wrist shot -