NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Martin Brodeur stole a game from the Chicago Blackhawks with a little unexpected help Adam Henrique and a surprise participant for the New Jersey Devils in the shootout — Travis Zajac.
Zajac, who returned to the lineup Sunday after missing 37 games with an Achilles’ injury, scored the game-deciding goal and Brodeur made 37 saves and stopped four of five in the shootout to give the Devils to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.
The win gave New Jersey a four-point lead on Ottawa in the race for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with five games left in the regular season.
“I think it was huge,” said Petr Sykora, who scored the Devils’ goal in regulation. “I don’t think it was one of our best games but I think it’s the best two points we got. It’s a cushion right now and we’ll take two points any way we can.”
It was two points the Devils really didn’t deserve, but Brodeur salted them away with a sprawling stop on Andrew Shaw to end the contest
“I felt good,” said Brodeur, who gave up 16 goals in going 0-3-1 in his previous four starts. “I felt right on where I needed to be as far as my angles and controlling rebounds and seeing the puck through traffic. I missed that one when they scored. I don’t even know where it went.”
Brodeur also had help. Henrique slid through the crease with roughly 2:20 to play in regulation to make the save on a rebound attempt by Patrick Sharp with the net open.
After Patrik Elias scored against Corey Crawford in the third round of the shootout to give the Devils a 1-0 lead, Sharp tallied to extend it.
David Clarkson and Marian Hossa were stopped in round 4 and Devils coach Peter DeBoer called upon Zajac in round five, even though he had only “messed around” in practice on his shootout attempts.
“I knew they wouldn’t have any film on him this year, so I hoped they didn’t have a scouting report,” DeBoer said. He obviously found a way to get it to stick in the net.”
Zajac beat Crawford over the glove with a snap shot.
“I kind of had my mind made up,” Zajac said. “I think I used that last year and scored so I’ll keep using it until it doesn’t work.”
Brodeur then made the goal stand up.
“He has an amazing record in shootouts but I thought he had a remarkable game tonight,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Defenseman Brent Seabrook tied the game for Chicago midway through the third period. The loss was the second in a row for Chicago after winning five straight.
Crawford finished with 21 saves and the Devils were limited to 11 shots over the final 45 minutes.
Seabrook tied the game at 8:34 of the third period after the Devils had trouble getting the puck out of their zone. Dave Bolland retrieved the puck above the left circle with a little help from defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and sent the cross-ice pass that Seabrook ripped past a seemingly screened Brodeur, who was looking for his 119th career shutout.
Crawford kept the score tied less than a minute late with a save on Zach Parise after New Jersey won a faceoff.
Brodeur nearly gave the game away with less than six minutes to play when his clearing pass up the middle of the ice was intercepted by Marcus Kruger. However, the goaltender gloved his one-on-one snap shot.
Sykora, who was demoted to the Devils’ fourth line on Monday, gave the Devils the lead with 4:18 left in the opening period with his 18th goal of the season. It came with nine seconds left on a hooking penalty against Seabrook and resulted when Chicago got caught on a bad line change.
Defenseman Mark Fayne found Henrique at the Blackhawks’ blue line and the rookie sent a pass toward the left side of the crease that a wide-open Sykora deflected past Crawford.
Chicago took 23 shots at Brodeur in the opening two periods and the 39-year-old turned them all aside. His best save came early in the second period with a pad stop on a close-in rebound attempt by Viktor Stalberg.
For the second straight game, the Blackhawks’ power play was miserable. They had three chances in the first two periods, including a 68-second two-man advantage in the second period, and failed to register a shot.
In a 6-1 loss to Nashville on Sunday, Chicago had four extra-man chances and also failed to get a shot on goal, which shows how much it misses suspended defenseman Duncan Keith and captain Jonathan Toews (concussion).
NOTES: Blackhawks D Steve Montador returned to the lineup after missing 22 games with a concussion. … Devils rookie D Adam Larsson was a healthy scratch after recent poor play. … Chicago rookie G Carter Hutton backed up Crawford with Ray Emery back home with an upper body injury. … This was the only game between the teams this season and the first since a Nov. 3, 2010 game in Chicago.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)