NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils put forth a dominant effort Wednesday night, and it left the Ottawa Senators under fire from coaches and management afterward.
The Devils scored the game's first three goals and cruised from there, emerging with a 5-2 victory at the Prudential Center in a battle between two teams in pursuit of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Devils right winger Jaromir Jagr scored the deciding goal early in the second period, the NHL record 122nd of his career that broke a tie with Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe.
On the other end of the spectrum was Devils rookie Reid Boucher, who scored the first goal of his career late in the first period. Boucher, a prolific scorer at the junior level, had gone six NHL games without scoring a goal before Wednesday.
"It was a relief to finally get it out of the way," Boucher said. "I felt like I was close and that I was getting the chances. Fortunately, I was able to get that one to go into the net."
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur was able to make the lead hold up. He made 23 saves to give the Devils consecutive wins for the first time since the final weekend of November and push the team to within one point of a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Brodeur delivered a great joke afterward, commenting on winger Damien Brunner's highlight-reel goal at the end of the second period. It was Brunner's fourth goal in four games and came on the heels of sitting as a healthy scratch as he struggled to produce.
"He does everything. It's pretty impressive," said Brodeur before commenting on the Devils organization's penchant for slowing things down offensively. "I'm happy for him that he's getting back to what everybody thought he was from last year.
"We always shut down offensive players here in New Jersey, so we almost got him. We almost he had him. Now he's back."
For the Senators, the loss resulted in a team meeting after the game that featured coaches and management in a heated discussion about the team's poor performance. It came two nights after the Senators earned a 3-2 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues, one of the NHL's top teams.
With a playoff spot almost within reach, the Senators followed it with a dismal showing.
"It was for the most part a message from the top of expectations from them and what we should be expecting of each other," Senators defenseman and alternate captain Chris Phillips said. "It was a good message."
"I'm not here to make excuses," Senators center and captain Jason Spezza said. "We just haven't been able to follow it up. Some nights we do it great and we look like a heck of a team. Unfortunately, for a majority of the nights, we haven't done it well enough."
A pair of calls that could have gone in the Senators' favor did not, resulting in a pair of goals. Devils right winger Michael Ryder appeared to trip Senators defenseman Joe Corvo, which led to the breakout that resulted in Boucher's goal.
On Brunner's goal, Senators defenseman Jared Cowen had the stick knocked from his hands as they fought for the puck. Brunner corralled the puck and beat goaltender Robin Lehner, but the Senators believed a slash should have been called on Brunner.
"We can complain and say the referees gave them two goals on non-calls, which we can argue about," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "It's only a penalty when he puts his arm up, but in lots of games this season those have been called, especially when the team gains an advantage like they did and scored two goals, both goals give them two-goal leads in the game.
"It could be a real different game if those calls are made, but the referee sees it a different way than we do. But for the most part our effort in the game was not even close to good enough to win and we can't be begging the referees and we can't be begging the league to say they're doing us wrong. We're doing us wrong."
The Senators have a chance to turn things around immediately with a road game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday. But it will be no easy task, as the Panthers have won four straight and six of seven and will be a rested club when the teams take the ice.
"We're playing a good Florida team tomorrow that's sitting at home waiting for us," Spezza said. "We know it's going to be a tough one and we're going to need an answer after this one. So hopefully we can bring it tomorrow."
NOTES: Senators D Marc Methot was eligible to return to the lineup after serving a three-game suspension, but coach Paul MacLean decided to make him a healthy scratch. Methot is second on the team in ice time at 21:28 per game. ... Devils RW Jaromir Jagr is now one goal behind Mark Messier for seventh on the all-time list. Messier had 694 in his career. ... With C Stephen Gionta back from injury and C Andrei Loktionov back in the lineup, Devils coach Peter DeBoer made C Jacob Josefson and LW Tim Sestito healthy scratches.