Regardless of who’s in goal, the New Jersey Devils’ surest route to victory has been with a potent offense.
New Jersey (12-7-2) dropped five of its first six games after losing Brodeur to a torn biceps muscle, but has since recovered to win a season-best five in a row.
While the Devils’ defensive production has remained steady, their offense has surged. New Jersey, which managed only eight goals in the first six games of Brodeur’s absence, is averaging 4.6 per game during the winning streak and has scored at least three times in each of the last five contests.
Three goals proved to be just enough at Florida on Wednesday night, when Johnny Oduya scored with 55.5 seconds left in overtime to give the Devils a 3-2 victory. Scott Clemmensen made 35 saves for New Jersey, which had to play the extra session after squandering a 2-0 lead in the final 2:19 of regulation.
“We found a way, and that’s important,” New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said. “We did a lot of good things, but we have to use it as a learning experience. When we’re in control like that, we can’t let it slip away.”
Brian Gionta and Travis Zajac scored in regulation for the Devils, who now have a chance to win six in a row for the first time since a nine-game winning streak from Nov. 17-Dec. 7, 2007. The Devils are 9-1-1 this season when scoring three goals or more, compared to 3-6-1 when they don’t.
All three of the low-scoring wins came in October, but one was a 2-1 overtime victory at Pittsburgh on Oct. 11, when Zach Parise scored the game-winner. Brodeur earned the win in that matchup but didn’t need to work particularly hard for it, as the Devils outshot the Penguins 49-15.
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury made a career-high 47 saves in that loss, but like Brodeur he is currently sidelined, having missed the last five games with an undisclosed injury. The Penguins, who had won all six of their November games before Fleury went down, have alternated losses and wins in his absence.
Sidney Crosby scored his ninth and 10th goals of the season and Evgeni Malkin assisted on both to give Pittsburgh a one-goal lead after two periods Friday night in Buffalo, but rookie goalie John Curry allowed two third-period goals as the Penguins fell 4-3.
Curry, who stopped all 11 shots he faced Wednesday in relief of an ineffective Dany Sabourin to beat the New York Islanders in his NHL debut, made 28 saves in his first start but couldn’t hold the lead in a third period where the Sabres outshot the Penguins 10-3.
“You can’t blame him on any of the goals,” Crosby said. “He made some big saves and kept us in it. He did a great job.”
Pittsburgh (13-6-3) had plenty of chances, but failed to score in seven power-play opportunities.
The Devils have won six of their last seven visits to Pittsburgh, with the lone exception a 7-1 loss on March 22, when Malkin and Ryan Malone each scored twice and the Penguins tallied five goals in the third period.