It wasn't quite what the Devils had drawn up, but not even a wasted lead could take the shine off of Friday's win.
They let a 3-0 advantage slip away in the third period, but responded in the shootout to top the visiting Washington Capitals, 4-3. Peter DeBoer's squad unwrapped two more key points in the standings just in time for the two-day holiday break.
"We make it interesting on ourselves," DeBoer said. "Obviously not the way we wanted to play the third period, but again, we did a lot of good things and got the win. Thankfully we've got 40-plus games here to clean up some little things."
Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Urbom and Adam Henrique scored second-period goals to put the Devils ahead by three. Washington answered with three in the third, including a pair from Jason Chimera, who knotted things up with 1:42 left in regulation.
The Devils would improve to 8-1 in the shootout. Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias both scored. Martin Brodeur stopped Nicklas Backstrom, then made a highlight-reel glove stop on Alex Ovechkin. Zach Parise, the Devils' second shooter, missed with a backhander.
Kovalchuk ended the night with a goal and an assist, plus the deciding tally in the shootout, where he's six for seven this year.
"I just try to read off the goalie, what he's going to do," Kovalchuk said of his approach. "Last time in Florida, I shot high glove. I'm sure he was watching those highlights. All the goalies they prepare for the shooters. I tried to freeze him and shoot it high."
The shootout continues to be the Devils' bread and butter.
"We have so many guys who can do it," Kovalchuk said. "We're just confident. We're confident in our goalies that they're going to stop at least two shots out of three. We just try to put two in."
The Devils (19-14-1) have won five of six and return to action Monday at Carolina.
"It was a big win," DeBoer said. "I really like the way we played. Even in the third, we had a few breakdowns, but we did a lot more wrong than right. I think we showed some immaturity in the third period in a couple of areas, but it's a learning process. We just need to continue to work at some of those things."
Washington outshot the Devils, 28-25, including 3-1 in overtime. Anton Volchenkov put a Dainius Zubrus pass off the left post with 53 seconds left in the extra session. Volchenkov had a scary moment in the second period when a John Erskine slapshot was deflected into his visor.
"Just a bad bounce," Volchenkov said. "It's good it wasn't very hard."
Elias played in front of the hometown crowd for the first time since establishing the new franchise goal mark Saturday in Montreal. After missing Tuesday's game due to illness, Elias was recognized during a break in the first period for his record-setting 348th tally.
"I kept it simple and short out there," Elias said. "I've been through it so many times, so I keep my shifts pretty short so I can go again and keep my energy up. I'm glad I came through at the end. We had plenty of chances in the first 40 minutes. Sometimes they don't go in, but we'll take the win."
Brodeur made his third straight start and picked up his third win in his last four appearances. He finished with 22 saves, and added the shootout robbery of Ovechkin.
"I didn't know what he was going to do, but I know he beat [Johan Hedberg on Nov. 12] on a blocker high shot, and the first thing I tried to take away was that shot," Brodeur said. "I just stacked my pads there and put my glove up and he shot it right into it."
Henrik Tallinder (back spasms) sat out his fourth straight contest. Adam Larsson missed his first game of the season after flying home to Sweden for the funeral of his grandmother.
Despite the depleted blue line, the Devils proved resilient.
"It's unfortunate that they had to come back, and we're giving points to a team that's close to us in the standings, but we played a pretty good hockey game," Brodeur said. "We just got overwhelmed a little bit in the third there. We have to learn how to handle these pressure situations."
After a scoreless first, the Devils erupted for a 3-0 lead in the second. Kovalchuk got things started on the power play, blasting his 11th of the year at 2:20.
Kovalchuk picked up the secondary assist on Urbom's first of the season that made it 2-0. Travis Zajac outwaited a sliding Ovechkin to set up a breaking Urbom during 4-on-4 play at 4:57. Kovalchuk, who saw his four-game points streak snapped on Tuesday, has three goals and six assists in his last six outings.
Henrique's ninth put the Devils ahead by three with a redirection of Matt Taormina's shot from the point at 10:08.
Washington hit the iron twice late in the second. Backstrom put two shots off the left post during a sequence with seven minutes to go. Alex Semin fired off the crossbar with 3:17 remaining.
The Capitals broke through in the third. Brooks Laich converted a tic-tac-toe passing play from Ovechkin and Dennis Wideman at 3:48. Chimera cut it to 3-2 with a jam shot at 12:44, then buried a Laich pass for the equalizer at 18:18.
Kovalchuk and Parise misfired on a 2-on-1 with eight minutes to go, followed by Volchenkov hitting the right post.