Zajac put home this picture-perfect shootout winner on Sunday.
newjerseydevils.com – In a battle between two of the NHL's hottest teams, something had to give. Travis Zajac made sure that it wasn't the Devils.
Zajac scored the deciding goal in the fifth round of the shootout to lead the Devils past the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2, Sunday at Prudential Center.
Zajac was the 10th shooter and won it with a wrist shot past Flyers netminder Antero Niittymaki's glove side. Zajac's second-career shootout winner led New Jersey to its second straight win over Philadelphia, which lost for the just the sixth time in 20 games.
Scott Clemmensen, who stopped four of five in shootout, allowed only Mike Richards' goal before stopping three straight Philadelphia attempts. He made a left arm save in the third round to deny Jeff Carter, who took over the league lead with his 25th goal.
After Carter's miss, Jamie Langenbrunner beat Niittymaki over his glove side to tie the shootout at 1-1 and send it into sudden death. Clemmensen then denied Kimmo Timonen and Joffrey Lupul in the fourth and fifth rounds. He finished with 27 saves to pick up his 11th win in his last 13 starts.
"When you get to the shootout, you don't know what you're going to get," Devils' head coach Brent Sutter said. "Clemmer made some big saves there and played decent tonight for us too. It's two points in a divisional game and we'll take it."
Patrik Elias scored his 16th of the season to extend his points streak to a team season-high 10 games (8g-9a). He has burned the Flyers for three goals and an assist in four meetings this season, and has 57 points (24g-33a) in 59 career games versus the Devils' division rivals.
Brian Rolston picked up his third goal of the season, which was his second in three games and first as a Devil at Prudential Center.
New Jersey took a 2-0 lead in a 1:06 span of the second period before allowing unanswered goals to Carter and Lupul, who tied the contest with 4:44 left in regulation. Sutter would eventually see his group prevail for its fourth win in six shootouts this season.
"When you're up 2-0, you don't want your opposition coming back on you," Sutter said. "I thought our work ethic was good. In the third, I thought we played on our heels a little bit. We weren't forechecking the way I want us to forecheck. What you're doing is allowing for a mistake that allows them to even it up. They evened it up. We responded well to it in the shootout."
The surging Devils won their third straight, improving to 12-2-1 in their last 15. With 41 points, they now trail the Flyers by two for second place in the Atlantic Division. The division-leading New York Rangers have a five-point lead over the Devils with five games in hand.
New Jersey has taken the first two games of its four-game homestand, which continues Tuesday against Eastern Conference-leading Boston. The Devils host Pittsburgh on Friday.
Even with the Bruins coming to town, it seems no opponent can defend Elias these days.
He continued to produce Sunday, and gave the Devils a 1-0 lead on their fourth straight power play to begin the afternoon. Parise and Zajac each took a swipe at Paul Martin's rebound from the point, and Elias finally put the loose puck past Niittymaki at 7:30 of the second.
Elias currently owns the NHL's second-longest active point streak behind Boston's Phil Kessel.
Rolston and David Clarkson combined for the second time in three games to make it 2-0 just 1:06 later.
Clarkson had the puck knocked off his stick as he walked out of the right corner, but Rolston controlled to score his third from the right circle at 8:36.
Philadelphia pulled back within a goal on its only power play of the day, when Lupul fed Carter in the slot for his league-leading 25th at 17:18 of the second.
"We took one minor penalty there and they capitalized on it," Sutter said. "It was one of those games where both teams were cautious to some degree, not wanting to put the other team on the power play. We did have (five power plays) and we capitalized on one. They had one, and capitalized on that one. It was a game that was kind of a cat-and-mouse game."
Clemmensen came up with key save at 5:30 of the third, when Scott Hartnell got in all alone for a shorthanded backhand that Clemmensen fought off with his catching glove.
Carter and Lupul teamed up once again to knot the contest with under five minutes to go in the third.
Carter backhanded a centering feed from the left corner and Lupul used a forehand redirection to score his 12th between Clemmensen's pads, tying the game, 2-2, with 4:44 left in regulation.
Clemmensen made a save on Carter's one-timer from the left circle with 1:53 left in overtime to help send the game into a shootout.
NJD NOTES Parise went first for New Jersey in the shootout, and appeared to catch crossbar with his backhand. With the Devils' second attempt, Elias lost the handle on a deke. Brian Gionta's backhander found Niittymaki's blocker with New Jersey's fourth try... Parise (2) and Langenbrunner have the Devils' other shootout winners this season... Parise's primary assist on Elias' goal gave him 199 career points. He now has points in four straight games (2g-5a)... Zajac got the secondary helper for his 99th career point. He has a three-game points streak (2g-2a)... Shots were even in the scoreless first, but the Devils couldn't solve Niittymaki despite having the only three power plays in the period... John Madden (ill) and Bryce Salvador (upper body) each missed their second straight game.