Arnott scored twice Sunday as the Devils won their fourth straight.
The Devils revival continued Sunday against the only team that has beaten them in the second half.
Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and two assists and Brian Rolston added a goal and an assist Sunday to lead the Devils to a convincing 5-2 win over the visiting Florida Panthers.
The victory – New Jersey’s fourth in a row – avenged a 3-2 overtime loss at Florida on Jan. 15.
The Devils (16-29-3) have won six of their last seven to pick up 13 of a possible 14 points in the second half. They continued their surge as the NHL’s hottest team and are just two points away from moving out of the NHL cellar.
Jason Arnott gave the Devils a 2-0 lead with two seconds left in the first period. That would chase ex-Devil Scott Clemmensen, who was relieved to start the second by rookie Jacob Markstrom, making his NHL debut.
Arnott added an empty-netter with 1:47 to go for his second of the game.
“It’s a good feeling in here,” Arnott said. “It certainly is a lot more fun winning than losing. I think Jacques [Lemaire] has had a big, huge part in that, turning us around, giving us a system that fits our team. When we do it right, we create goals and we prevent goals. When we do it wrong, we get back into the old style that we played at the beginning.”
It certainly is a lot more fun winning than losing. I think Jacques [Lemaire] has had a big, huge part in that, turning us around, giving us a system that fits our team. When we do it right, we create goals and we prevent goals.- Jason Arnott
The Devils visit Detroit on Wednesday where they play their final game before the All-Star break. Their mantra is a familiar one: take it a game at a time.
“Right now, we just want to come out with as many points as we can,” Arnott said. “We’re a longshot [to make the playoffs] right now, but it doesn’t matter who we play, we’re at the bottom. Every team we play is better than us. We have to go into the building thinking ‘This is the best team in the League.’ That’s what we have to do.”
Martin Brodeur was back in net after getting the day off Saturday in Philadelphia. He posted 24 saves for his third straight victory and has won five of his last six starts to improve to 10-18-2.
“We got off to a good start, scoring the first two goals of the game,” Brodeur said. “It was another good effort offensively. Our power play made a difference. When they got back in the game, we scored two power-play goals and that sealed the deal for us.”
Brodeur's averaging two goals against in his last six starts and has been a major part of the turnaround. So, too, has the scoring – the Devils have lit up opponents for 28 goals in the last seven games.
"We've been playing really well," he said. "We play like a team that knows how to play the game and do the right things to win hockey games. That's not what it was earlier, but we grew into playing like that. We have to be accountable to each other more and more to try and keep this going as much as we can."
Brodeur making one of his 26 saves.
Said Brodeur: "We're going to make as big a push as we can to try and see what teams will do in front of us. We may have an opportunity, we might not. There's still a lot of games."
Shawn Matthias cut the lead to 2-1 on an odd-man rush at 7:22 of the second. Rolston restored the two-goal cushion on the power play. He’s been on fire since clearing re-entry waivers in December, and is enjoying one of his most productive stretches since returning to New Jersey in 2008.
“The bottom line, we feel confident about our game,” Rolston said. “We know the things that we’re doing are helping us win and everybody’s buying in. That’s an important thing, too. It’s just great team efforts. Everybody’s contributing.”
Rolston credited Lemaire’s puck control system for reviving the Devils offensively. They reached the 100-goal mark Sunday, becoming the last team to do so.
“You don’t see many chip outs coming out of our zone,” Rolston said. “We’re coming out with puck possession – that is a huge difference if you want to be successful offensively.”
With Keaton Ellerby off for hooking Alexander Vasyunov, Kovalchuk went point to point for Rolston’s one-timer from the right side that made it 3-1 at 12:48 of the second. It was the fifth of the year for Rolston, who has 10 points in the last seven games (3 goals, 7 assists).
“It wasn’t the best shot, I don’t think,” Rolston said. “It was kind of a change-up that got in the top corner with a good screen. Our power play didn’t look great before that, but sometimes, that’s all it takes. We get that one, then we get a 5-on-3 goal and you get confidence and maybe you can carry that into the next game.”
That 5-on-3 goal came from Patrik Elias, who beat Markstrom for his second tally in as many games to give the Devils their first three-goal lead, 4-1. He fired a shot from the bottom of the right circle for his 13th of the season and team-leading seventh on the power play with 2:41 to go in the middle frame.
The Devils’ leading scorer (36 points), Elias extended his points streak to four games (3 goals, 2 assists). New Jersey scored twice on the power play for the first time since Dec. 10 at Ottawa.
Since dropping seven of their first eight games under Jacques Lemaire, the Devils have recovered to claim points in seven straight. Lemaire is 7-7-1 since taking over on Dec. 23 and clearly has his team headed in the right direction.
"When things happen the way they happened for us the first 40 games, it's not going to change right overnight," Elias said. "It always takes time. It took time for us. It could've taken longer, it could've taken less, who knows?"
Kovalchuk opened the scoring at 4:20 of the first period, redirecting Andy Greene’s point shot for his team-leading 14th. Moments earlier, he’d collected a pass from Travis Zajac for a wrister from the slot that Clemmensen gloved, but couldn’t control. Zajac worked the puck back to Greene for his shot through traffic that resulted in the goal.
“We’re far away from where we want to be, but you never know,” Kovalchuk said. “We just have to keep working like that and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Arnott tallied with two seconds left in the frame. First, he just missed the right corner driving the net for a feed from Adam Mair. Mark Fayne moved in from the right point to fire the puck back at the net, and Mair got a stick on it before Arnott backhanded his 11th past Clemmensen.
Marty Reasoner put in a loose puck at 5:56 of the third. Arnott scored into the empty-net for his 12th with 1:47 to go in regulation.
Despite seeing his team win handily, Lemaire hardly seemed enthralled with their performance.
"What did I like best? Let me search," he said. "That's a tough question. Let's say I didn't have a good feel for a lot of stuff. In the third, we played pretty good for a time there. It seemed like we were coming back to play our game. The start was good. Besides that…"
When asked what he didn't like, he responded: "Too many things."
Devils Notes David Clarkson had a goal waved off at 9:51 of the third. Markstrom made a glove save on Anton Volchenkov's shot, and Clarkson jammed home the rebound, but it was ruled that the whistle had already blown. … Colin White (lower body), Nick Palmieri (upper body) and Vladimir Zharkov (sick) were scratched. … Vasyunov was recalled from Albany (AHL) and skated with Arnott and Mair. He played 18 shifts for 12:08 of ice time.
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