NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer described his team's frenetic 5-4 shootout victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday at Prudential Center as one wild adventure.
What an understatement.
Not only did the teams combine for three shorthanded goals and 56 minutes in penalty time, but the Devils rallied from a three-goal deficit to take a lead only to allow the Senators to even it up with five seconds remaining in regulation before notching a League-leading sixth shootout victory.
"It was one of those nights over a long season where you don't ask how, but how many," DeBoer said. "I think that's the way we have to approach it, and obviously get better the next game."
In the end, rookie Adam Henrique's forehand-to-backhand deke in the fourth round of the shootout proved to be the difference. Devils goalie Johan Hedberg, who replaced starter Martin Brodeur to open the second period, then denied David Rundblad at the left post as New Jersey improved to 8-1 in games that go beyond regulation -- including 6-1 in shootouts. Hedberg finished with 18 saves on 20 shots.
"I wasn't thinking too much on that shootout goal," Henrique said. "I couldn't tell you what I was going to do … I knew I didn't want to overthink it. I just tried to get a good fake. [Ottawa goalie Alex Auld] is a big guy so I tried to change it up. Moose then made a big save to close it out."
Zach Parise and Patrik Elias also scored in the shootout, as did Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson for Ottawa.
"We feel pretty comfortable going into a shootout because we have some good shooters in those one-on-one situations," Parise said. "It was an important win for us. Ideally, we'd like to close it out and win in regulation, but it didn't happen. But for us to come back in the last 30 minutes and erase a three-goal deficit was a big thing for our team. We're going to have to win games like this throughout the season."
While DeBoer was proud of the effort, he would much rather see his club exhibit that sense of desperation to close out games in regulation -- rather than giving points to teams the Devils might battle for a playoff berth.
"I want to also see that confidence in the last minute or two of games so that we can win in regulation because we're a very confident team on the penalty-kill, in overtime and the shootout, but at other points, we look tentative and inexperienced," DeBoer said. "We have to sort that stuff out."
The Devils rallied from a 3-0 hole to grab a 4-3 lead when Ilya Kovalchuk scored from the right circle at 9:45 of the third period, just 37 seconds after Mattias Tedenby saw a rebound bounce off the crest on his jersey and into the net for his first of the season to square the contest. But Jesse Winchester swept home a shot with his team shorthanded and just 5 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime.
"It was a crazy game … a lot of different faces to it," Hedberg said. "It went up and down. Momentum is such a big thing in hockey. If you get it on your side, and you keep working, good things are bound to happen."
Dainius Zubrus scored New Jersey's second shorthanded goal of the game 2:59 into the third to pull the home team within 3-2. Zubrus controlled a feed from Patrik Elias and broke in on Auld (27 saves) before sending a shot into the top left corner.
The Devils pulled within 3-1 at 14:59 of the second when Parise fired his third shorthanded goal of the season past Auld, who has never beaten New Jersey in eight career attempts (0-5-3). Parise made it happen when he stole the puck from Spezza at center ice before feeding Henrique. The rookie skated down the middle of the ice before leading Parise in the right circle. The goal was Parise' eighth of the season.
Despite losing 5-3 at home to the Washington Capitals less than 24 hours earlier and then getting on a plane and having to clear customs early Thursday morning, the Senators appeared to be the sharper team in the opening period as they jumped to a 2-0 lead.
"We didn't come out the way we wanted to even though they played and traveled [Wednesday] night," Henrique said. "We wanted to jump on them right away, but I don't think we did that. When you're playing in these games, you have to take advantage of that and jump on them; take it from them. But we settled down and gained momentum in the second and third periods."
Milan Michalek connected for his League-leading 18th goal of the season off a giveaway in the offensive end at 6:31 to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead. Nick Foligno made it 2-0 at 17:45 when he controlled a rebound in the slot and deftly backhanded a shot over a fallen Brodeur from the right hash. Defenseman Jared Cowen took the initial shot on Brodeur, who wasn't able to control the rebound. The goal extended Foligno's season-high point-scoring streak to six games.
Upset by his team's effort, DeBoer replaced Brodeur -- who stopped seven of nine shots -- with Hedberg to open the second.
"We all needed to be better, coaches included," DeBoer said. "It was a poor start and the coach only has a few ways to grab a team's attention and that's one of them. "Moose" was able to make a couple of big saves and settled us down. He was the benefactor of better play in front of him … something Marty didn't have."
Said Kovalchuk: "It's a long season and Marty played an outstanding game in Toronto [in an OT victory on Tuesday] so he'll be ready for Montreal I'm sure. We're confident in both of them … they're a huge part of our team."
The Senators made it 3-0 9:41 into the second when Alfredsson blasted home his seventh of the season during a 5-on-3 power play. Petr Sykora, one of the two players in the box for Alfredsson's goal had an apparent goal waved off just 1:38 earlier when Tedenby was whistled for holding Chris Phillips in the right-wing corner. The power-play goal was the first allowed by the Devils on home ice this season in 41 chances.
The Devils announced during the game that defenseman Andy Greene would be sidelined four weeks with a non-displaced toe fracture.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale