Blue Jackets prevail in shootout with Devils

Dave Lozo, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils were playing their first game after a three-day break for Christmas, but it appeared that the Devils decided to extend the holiday for an extra two periods on Friday night.
The Blue Jackets dominated early and overcame goaltender Martin Brodeur's outstanding night to emerge with a 2-1 shootout victory at the Prudential Center in a battle between Metropolitan Division teams.
Cam Atkinson scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Blue Jackets their third straight victory and spoil a 30-save performance by Brodeur.
"Marty's a Hall of Fame goalie, so it's going to be hard to score goals," said Atkinson, who was stopped by Brodeur on a breakaway early in the second period. "We were lucky to get one early on. We kind of stuck with it and weathered the storm in the third period and got the job done in the shootout."
Through two periods, the Blue Jackets led 1-0 on left winger Artem Anisimov's 11th goal of the season in the first period. The Devils generated just nine shots on net as they looked sluggish and slow against the quicker Blue Jackets.
Brodeur was up to the task after Anisimov's rebound goal, stopping an avalanche of great chances. He turned aside a cutting defenseman Fedor Tyutin early in the third period and got his shoulder on a point blast by defenseman Jack Johnson with a flood of traffic around the crease to keep the Devils within a goal.
It paid off when Rangers left winger Adam Henrique scored his first goal in 13 games at 5:45 of the third period make it 1-1. He drove the net and whacked home the rebound of center Patrik Elias' shot to beat goaltender Curtis McElhinney to the stick side.
The Devils had a chance to take the lead with less than three minutes remaining in regulation, but a shot by center Travis Zajac rang off the far post.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer would not call the win lucky, considering his team had nine shots through two periods, but he felt fortunate to escape with a point.
"I don't know about lucky," DeBoer said. "It's the first game back after Christmas. I'm not a big believer in luck. I think our goalie gave us a chance tonight to hang around and get our legs. Our third period was our best. Obviously, we would have liked two points, but it was probably the just result."
The win pushed the Blue Jackets (17-17-4) to .500 for the first time since they were 2-2-0. They are tied for third in the Metropolitan with the Philadelphia Flyers, who hold the tiebreaker thanks to having played one fewer game.
It's a benchmark they've been trying to reach for two months and McElhinney, who made 16 saves in the victory, said it is satisfying to be on even footing again.
"It feels good," McElhinney said. "The other fact is you're chasing a team like New Jersey. For us, .500, we're going to have to get above that to be in the playoffs. It's nice that we got there now and hopefully we'll get a little bit of redemption against a team (Pittsburgh) we've lost to a few times already."
For the Devils, the shootout continues to be a source of frustration. They are 0-6 in the breakaway competition this season and have just one goal in 20 attempts. For a team that is 15-16-8 and just outside the top three in the division, the points being left on the table have been costly.
DeBoer decided against using forward Reid Boucher, who has the team's lone shootout goal, and instead employed left winger Jaromir Jagr, left winger Ryane Clowe and Elias against McElhinney. Jagr nearly scored on a quick move, but Clowe and Elias were stopped with clean saves.
"It's a tough one," Brodeur said. "I think we didn't start the first two periods with our best. But in the third, we pulled it off to get a point, but it's unfortunate again that the shootout came and bite us."
NOTES: The Blue Jackets were without a slew of key players, including G Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), RW Marian Gaborik (collarbone), RW Nathan Horton (left shoulder) and LW Matt Calvert (shoulder). Horton has yet to play a game this season after signing a seven-year deal in the offseason. ... Devils LW Ryane Clowe made his return to the lineup after sitting out with a concussion since Oct. 13. Clowe played in just six games this season after signing a five-year, $24.25 million contract over the summer.

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