The Devils celebrate Zubrus' go-ahead goal. The Rolston-Elias-Zubrus line has been one of the Devils' best in the second half.
Dainius Zubrus wasn’t even trying to put the puck on net. But with some of the tough luck the Devils have had this season, it’s about time more of the bounces went their way.
In fact, Zubrus was trying to set up linemate Patrik Elias from the bottom of the right circle when the puck took a fortunate carom and broke a 1-1 tie with 5:43 to go.
It went off of Chris Phillips, then over the shoulder of goaltender Robin Lehner, and wound up being the game-winner in Tuesday’s 2-1 triumph over the visiting Ottawa Senators.
“I was going to Patrik,” said Zubrus, whose eighth of the season lifted the Devils to a 7-1-1 mark in the second half. “As I turned around, I saw Patrik going toward the net. I tried to get the puck to him because I thought he beat his defender. Lucky bounce, but we’ll take it. If you look at the chances overall in shots, and the way we played, I thought we still earned it.”
The Devils (17-30-3) dominated the first 40 minutes, but were tied, 1-1, despite a 25-6 shots advantage. Nick Palmieri had the other goal for New Jersey, which came out of the All-Star break with a strong effort and a solid, if narrow, victory.
Lucky bounce, but we’ll take it. If you look at the chances overall in shots, and the way we played, I thought we still earned it.- Dainius Zubrus
"We didn't get too many chances in the first," head coach Jacques Lemaire said. "In the second, we had quite a few and we created good chances but we just wanted to keep going. We knew we were going to get a goal if we kept playing the same way."
They came up short in Detroit in their final game before the All-Star weekend. After four days off, this was the way to get back on track.
“Is the break good? If we keep going and keep winning, yes,” Zubrus said. “Now it’s only one game. We did pretty well, but I thought there was still a few areas we can get better at.”
Martin Brodeur made 15 saves and has six wins in his last eight starts. At the other end, the 19-year-old Lehner was impressive in his fourth NHL appearance, finishing with 31 stops.
“You get a little frustrated because you get chances, you get really good chances,” Zubrus said. “But in saying that, it happens. You keep skating keep creating and hopefully one of them goes in. That’s kind of what happened. Obviously [Lehner] played really well, especially in the second period.”
Zubrus’ minor for high-sticking Chris Campoli gave Ottawa a two-man advantage in the second. Alex Kovalev cashed in, tapping home a cross-crease pass from Daniel Alfredsson to tie the game, 1-1, at 5:09.
“When it happened originally, I didn’t think anything happened,” Zubrus said of the penalty. “I was told I did get [Campoli] even before the puck came around. My stick was kind of over my shoulder on the side, and I guess that’s when I got him. I was told by the coaches that it was a high-stick, because I was really not sure about it.”
Palmieri notched his fourth goal in 11 games to stake the Devils to a 1-0 lead early in the second. Andy Greene’s shot from the point redirected off traffic in the slot, landing in front of Palmieri at the top of the crease. His initial backhander was stopped by Lehner before he scored off his own rebound 35 seconds in.
“I really didn’t see it, I just kind of went to the front and it popped right down in front of my feet,” Palmieri said. “It was just one of those ones where you’re not really expecting it but it ended up right in front of me.”
It seems Palmieri has accomplished what he set out to do since his recall from Albany on Dec. 30.
“I think my goal when I got called up was to make sure that I came up here and made an impact and made it hard for them to send me back down,” he said.
“He’s going to the net, he’s scoring a lot of goals that you have to score in this League,” Zajac said. “He’s good around the net, he’s a big body, he’s got good hands, and he’s just going to the right places right now and he’s working hard.”
Two minutes after Palmieri’s goal, Elias hit the post on a 2-on-1 with Vladimir Zharkov.
Lehner had a bundle of sensational stops in the second, robbing Rod Pelley from the right circle on a Zharkov set-up at 6:16, then a Tim Sestito redirection of a Pelley pass at 10:57. Lehner got across for a nice save on Kovalchuk’s one-timer with 2:46 to go, as the Devils applied tremendous pressure in the Ottawa zone to close out the middle frame.
Kovalchuk's wraparound attempt just missed with 7:02 left in regulation. After streaking down the right wing, Kovalchuk deked Lehner then carried around the net. He had an open left side, but stuffed the puck off the side of the net near the left post.
The Devils welcomed back defenseman Colin White (lower body) from a two-game absence. White did not practice Monday, but skated on his own before Tuesday's morning skate.
"I felt good," said White, who had one shot in 18:34 of ice time. "I felt good this morning on the ice and that's what we talked about afterwards."
Lemaire wasn't sure that White would be available.
"He had a long workout this morning on his own on the other surface and didn't think he was going to be able to play," Lemaire said. "And then we talked about his not having to play too much. So instead of putting the lineup with [Alexander Urbom], we felt Whitey would help us more."
With assists on Zubrus' goal, Elias (3 goals, 5 assists) and Brian Rolston (3 goals, 5 assists) each extended their points streaks to six games. … Mattias Tedenby, Mark Fayne and Urbom were scratched. Urbom was recalled from Albany under emergency conditions on Tuesday.
1 - 0 NJD
1 - 1 Tie