newjerseydevils.com – A sign in the Prudential Center crowd read: "We believe in Weekes."
In the Devils' first game since the announcement that Martin Brodeur will miss three to four months with a torn bicep tendon, Kevin Weekes rewarded that faith with his first victory of the season.
Weekes (1-1-0) made 24 saves and stopped two of three attempts in the shootout to help lead the Devils to a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday in Newark.
Langenbrunner celebrates the shootout winner.
It was Weekes' first triumph since a 3-2 decision at Pittsburgh on Nov. 12.
"He played very well," said head coach Brent Sutter. "He gave his team a chance to win. He was very solid."
With the shootout tied at 1-1 on goals from Vincent Lecavalier and Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner beat Tampa's Mike Smith on a forehand deke to clinch it in the final round.
Elias, David Clarkson and Jay Pandolfo scored in regulation for New Jersey (7-3-2), which overcame 1-0 first-period deficit with two goals in the second and secured its second shootout victory of the season.
The Devils closed out the four-game homestand on a high note, collecting five of eight possible points (2-1-1) and snapping Tampa's three-game winning streak. New Jersey now heads to Detroit to face the defending Stanley Cup-champion Red Wings Saturday, before returning for five of six at home.
Missing Brodeur, who was scheduled to have surgery Thursday to repair his distal bicep tendon, and defenseman Paul Martin, who sat out a second game with upper body soreness, the Devils blew a pair of one-goal leads but persevered against an offensively dynamic Lightning squad.
"Tonight we played hard again," Sutter said. "We competed. We did a lot of good things defensively. We scored the goals we needed to."
The Devils continued without Brian Rolston (ankle), Bobby Holik (pinky), Andy Greene (broken hand), and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (nasal fracture). The key to overcoming the injury situation, said Sutter, is for the healthy members of his group to play within the system.
"We are a good team," the coach said. "When injuries become part of your hockey team you have to have your foundation and your structure. How you play is very important. You can't waver from that."
After Jussi Jokinen's first of two goals in the game had put the Lightning ahead 1-0 in the first period, the Devils responded with two tallies 2:39 apart in the middle frame.
Clarkson tied it at 1-1 with a wrist shot from outside the right circle that deflected off Smith's left shoulder and into the short side at 16:05. Clarkson's third of the year came in his 100th career game.
Later, on the Devils' second power play, Elias picked up his fourth to put the Devils ahead.
Johnny Oduya's slapshot hit Brian Gionta in the slot and Dainius Zubrus controlled for a backhand pass to Elias, who buried it from the bottom of the right circle at 18:44.
Elias' first power-play strike of the year had the Devils leading 2-1 heading into the third. Zubrus, meanwhile, registered his second two-assist performance in three games.
Jokinen notched his second of the contest to knot the game, 2-2. He sent a cross-ice pass to Andrej Meszaros at the left circle, then got the puck right back for a power-play one-timer through Weekes from the right circle at 10:52.
Pandolfo netted his second after Elias' shot from the right circle was stopped by Smith and poked loose by John Madden. Madden's second effort resulted in the puck drifting into the slot, where Pandolfo scooped it into the open net at 15:10 for a 3-2 lead.
Ninety seconds later, Martin St. Louis, who was held without a goal in four games versus the Devils last season, evened the score at 3-3 with Tampa's second power-play goal of the third.
With Sheldon Brookbank in the box for putting the puck over the glass, St. Louis buried his second of the year from the slot off of a Lecavalier rebound at 16:40.
"Unfortunately, we took a few penalties in the last few minutes," Sutter said. "We took one and we're scored against in the last five minutes. It's a tough penalty to take. I'm not being critical towards those individuals. It was a good job by everybody. We worked hard. We did a good job. We played hard here tonight for 65 minutes."
New Jersey led the shots count 34-23 after regulation, and shots were even, 4-4 in the overtime session.
On the first attempt of the shootout, Lecavalier used a stutter step to beat Weekes low to the glove side, then Zach Parise, who has New Jersey's other deciding goal this season, caught the crossbar with a backhand try.
Jokinen hit Weekes' left pad with Tampa's second attempt, and Elias answered with a deke and a backhand score under Smith's catching glove.
Weekes stopped Vinny Prospal's forehand shot, and Langenbrunner ended it under Smith's glove side
NJD NOTES Devils'/MSG Plus announcer Mike Emrick was recognized during the game for the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award he is set to receive during the Hockey Hall of Fame luncheon Monday in Toronto. The award is given to broadcasters who have made outstanding contributions to their profession and to the game of hockey.
1 - 0 TBL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NJD
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NJD
Martin St. Louis