Travis Zajac scored the game-winning goal in the fifth round of the shootout and netminder Martin Brodeur stopped 37 of 38 shots through overtime, then made four saves on five shootout attempts to lift the New Jersey Devils to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.
After Zajac scored, it was up to Andrew Shaw to extend the shootout. But his shot beat Brodeur, only to hit solidly off the goal post and stay out. As a result, the Devils improved to an NHL-best 12-4 in the game-deciding skills competition for the season.
The New Jersey win snapped a two-game losing streak (0-1-1), and a skid in which the Devils dropped four of five (1-3-1) contests. The two points improved Jersey's total to 92 and moved them four points ahead of the Ottawa Senators for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, while bringing them to within four of the Philadelphia Flyers for fifth. The Devs have five games remaining in their regular season schedule.
It was the Blackhawks' second consecutive defeat (0-1-1), which has immediately followed a five-game winning streak. Chicago failed to take full advantage of the Nashville Predators' regulation loss in St. Louis, as a win would have drawn them to within two points of the fifth-place Preds. But they still managed to pick up a point, and their total of 93 is six better than the Dallas Stars for the sixth seed in the West.
The Devils grabbed a 1-0 lead late in the first period, when the home team caught the Blackhawks on a bad line change during a Devils' power play. Adam Henrique held the puck along the right half wall, then spotted Petr Sykora in front of the Chicago cage. Sykora deftly redirected Henrique's pass by Corey Crawford for his 18th goal of the season at the 15:42 mark of the opening stanza.
The goal held up until the midway point of the third period, when the 'Hawks were finally able to solve Brodeur. Brent Seabrook took a cross-ice feed from Dave Bolland at the right point and blasted a slap shot past the New Jersey goaltender for his eighth goal of the year at 8:34 of the third to tie the score at 1-1.
Brodeur almost handed Chicago a lead two minutes later when his clearing pass up the middle was intercepted by Marcus Kruger, who whirled and moved in on the Devils' cage, only to have his wrist shot from the slot snared by the legendary New Jersey goalie.
Following a fruitless overtime, both clubs failed to score in the first two rounds of the shootout.