By Mark Krulish
What Happened: David Clarkson and Patrik Elias scored in the shootout to lift the Devils to a 3-2 victory over the Sabres, breaking their six-game losing streak. Buffalo opened the scoring with a power play goal from Thomas Vanek midway through the second period, and Brian Flynn scored his first National Hockey League goal at the 9:56 mark of the third to extend the lead to 2-0. Adam Henrique broke the ice for the Devils with a power play goal and Elias scored on a rebound with 1:06 left to tie the game at 2, setting the stage for the shootout win.
Star of the game: Patrik Elias was in the right place at the right time as Jhonas Enroth kicked a rebound right to him with the extra attacker coming on the ice. In the shootout, the veteran forward deked Ryan Miller completely out of position and slid the puck into the empty net to seal the victory.
Goat of the game: Sabres defenseman TJ Brennan let Elias walk in untouched to the rebound that tied the game. It was a bad rebound to give up in such an important spot by Enroth, but Brennan didn’t even react to Elias’s presence in the low slot, let alone try to put a body on him.
Turning Point: Henrique’s power play goal re-energized both the team and the crowd. The Devils had not been playing bad hockey up until that point, but they had been snakebitten the entire game.
Offense: B – The offense looked good, even great at some points during the game, and played with plenty of energy. The Devils were not without chances throughout the game, but could not finish until the third period. The final six minutes of the game were the best that the Devils have seen in some time.
Defense: C – Peter Harrold stepped into the lineup, played a solid game, and was perhaps the best defenseman tonight along with Andy Greene. There were a few defensive lapses, as there usually are in any Devils game, but no major mistakes were made during even strength play.
Goaltending: B – Johan Hedberg stopped 23 of 25 shots and got the great performance he desperately needed. The 39-year-old goaltender has struggled the past few games, but he was on point in this game. He had no chance on Vanek’s rocket one-timer in the second period.
Special Teams: C+ – There was some good and some bad on the special teams side. The penalty kill made a fatal mistake when three players rushed to the corner, leaving Vanek all alone in front of the net to rip a one-timer past Hedberg. However, the power play redeemed the special teams department with the goal that opened the floodgates.
Instant Insight: It was the kind of effort the Devils needed to come out with. They had plenty of energy early on and continued to battle through adversity as Enroth kept the door shut through two periods. The Devils got a great performance from their goaltender, and he made enough saves to keep them in the game long enough for the offense to get on track. The Devils now need to build on this victory keep themselves in playoff contention.