OTTAWA (AP) — The New Jersey Devils are happy to be done with Ottawa.
They entered this game on a tear, winning 23 of their last 28 (23-3-2). Now, they’ve lost to the last-place Senators for the second time in nine days after Ottawa’s 3-1 win Thursday night.
“Those are points that we were counting on,” New Jersey’s Patrik Elias said. “For whatever reason we had a hard time playing both games against them. It’s tough.”
Chris Neil scored two third-period goals.
The Devils are six points behind the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“Every point is so important,” Dainius Zubrus said. “Every night is a must win for us and now we’ve lost two to them.”
Ryan Shannon also scored for the Senators and Curtis McElhinney, making his second start for Ottawa, made 33 saves.
“It’s kind of nice to make things tough for other teams,” Neil said. “We knew they were playing really well and we’re pretty happy to come out with the two points.”
Brian Rolston scored for the Devils. Martin Brodeur stopped 23 shots.
Ottawa was unable to score on a 49-second two-man advantage late in the first period, but the Senators made the most of the remainder of their power play as Shannon, standing right on the lip of the crease, tipped in Jason Spezza’s shot for a 1-0 lead.
Brodeur and McElhinney were at their best in the second, making a number of point-blank saves. Brodeur needed to make a big save on Spezza early in the period and a glove save on Marek Svatos later.
McElhinney looked great with a big stick save on Travis Zajac, then later he stopped Zubrus with the Devils on the power play.
“He made a couple of real timely saves,” Senators coach Cory Clouston said of McElhinney’s performance. “He was patient tonight and to me that was the most important thing.”
The Senators took a 2-0 lead 55 seconds into the third when Erik Karlsson shot from the boards and Neil knocked the puck out of the air and past Brodeur. The play was reviewed, and officials ruled Neil’s stick was below the crossbar when it hit the puck.
“I knew I didn t touch it,” Neil said. “I was waiting for it to come down, but the way it was going I just needed to follow it.”
The Devils appeared to cut the lead in half less than a minute later, but Colin White’s apparent goal was waved off due to goaltender interference.
New Jersey finally beat McElhinney a few minutes later on a power play with Rolston’s shot from just inside the blue line.
McElhinney made a huge stop on Ilya Kovalchuk late in the third to preserve the lead, before Neil added an empty-netter.
NOTES: The Senators were without RW Daniel Alfredsson (back, indefinite), C Peter Regin (shoulder, season), LW Milan Michalek (lower body, indefinite), G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, indefinite), and D Matt Carkner (knee, indefinite). … Devils D Mark Fraser and C Rod Pelley were healthy scratches. … Devils C Travis Zajac played in his 389th consecutive game and surpassed Ken Daneyko’s record of 388 for the franchise most.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)