VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -It got closer than Scott Clemmensen would have liked, but the Devils goaltender wasn't worried about style points. All that mattered was the win.
New Jersey got goals from five different players while building a pair of three-goal leads, then overcame a soft goal from Clemmensen in the final minutes to hang on and beat the slumping Vancouver Canucks 5-3 on Tuesday night.
"We haven't been playing that well lately so for us to get a win was important, regardless of how we did it," said Clemmensen, who made 26 saves to snap his personal three-game losing streak. "It was up and down for most of the game and we finished down but we got the win so that's the most important part."
The down part came when Pavol Demitra scored with 7:41 to play and Steve Bernier scored from a sharp angle to make it 4-3 with 2:41 left. But Dainius Zubrus scored into an empty net in the final minute, ensuring the game ended the same way it started for the Devils.
Brian Rolston and Zach Parise scored in the first 3:29, and Brian Gionta made it 3-0 midway through the first period as New Jersey won for the second time in five games.
"Any time you can get on a team like that, especially early, it's big," said Rolston, whose first shot of the game hit the crossbar. His second easily found the back of the net from the slot after goalie Jason LaBarbera scrambled awkwardly back into position after handling the puck behind the net.
Parise put a rebound into an empty net 2:24 later after LaBarbera got a piece of Travis Zajac's blocker-side shot off a 2-on-1 rush, ending the Canucks goalie's night after just four saves.
"We get that goal early and kept coming, kept coming," Rolston said. "We kept getting pucks in deep and our forecheck was our biggest plus for us tonight."
That forecheck forced LaBarbera's replacement, Curtis Sanford, into a turnover behind his goal that left Gionta with an empty net 11:07 into the game.
"As a goalie you never want to see that happen to anyone, but I need the win," Clemmensen said.
Alex Burrows also scored, and Sanford finished with 19 saves for the Canucks, who have one win in six games and have dropped five straight on home ice.
"We all have to be better, including myself, and be ready at the start of the game," said Mats Sundin, who recorded his first assist - and second point - in four games with the Canucks.
"We play like we did in the second and third and we'll have a good chance to win."
Despite being called out by coach Alain Vigneault for their recent lack of urgency and desperation, the Canucks were sloppy defensively and behind early.
Booed off the ice by a sellout crowd of 18,630 after the first period, Burrows solved Clemmensen on a rebound midway through the second. But Zajac got that back four minutes into the third period, converting a 3-on-2 shortly after Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell hit the post at the other end.
"That was a big turning point," said Clemmensen, who is getting his first chance as a No. 1 goalie at the age of 31. He improved to 16-9-1 as the Devils continued to win without Martin Brodeur.
Demitra, who started the game demoted to the fourth line, beat him with 7:41 left on a rebound of Sundin's shot, and Bernier scored out of the corner to make it interesting late.
But coach Brent Sutter had nothing bad to say about his goaltending as New Jersey improved to 19-13-1 since Brodeur, a three-time Vezina Trophy winner, tore his biceps on Nov. 1.
"Whenever he's not here you miss him, let's face it," Sutter said. "But we've been going on here just fine. Tonight was one I'm sure Clemmer wishes he could have had all three of those back, but he battled. He has done a real good job so I'm not going to sit here and crucify our goaltending."
Notes: Vancouver fell to 9-12-3 since their star goalie, Roberto Luongo, injured his groin Nov. 22. The two-time Vezina Trophy finalist returned to practice Monday and could play on Thursday against Phoenix. ... Vancouver LW Taylor Pyatt returned after missing eight games with a broken foot. ... C Rick Rypien has recovered from sports hernia surgery, but Vigneault said after the morning skate he has been given an indefinite leave of absence to deal with an undisclosed personal issue.
|Brian Rolston (8) ASST: David Clarkson (9), John Madden (8)|
1 - 0 NJD
|Zach Parise (25) ASST: Travis Zajac (21), Jamie Langenbrunner (23)|
2 - 0 NJD
|Brian Gionta (11) ASST: Dainius Zubrus (17), Patrik Elias (30)|
3 - 0 NJD
|Alexandre Burrows (10) ASST: Ryan Kesler (14), Willie Mitchell (12)|
3 - 1 NJD
|Travis Zajac (12) ASST: Jamie Langenbrunner (24), Johnny Oduya (13)|
4 - 1 NJD
|Pavol Demitra (13) ASST: Mats Sundin (1), Shane O'Brien (7)|
4 - 2 NJD
|Steve Bernier (10) ASST: Ryan Kesler (15)|
4 - 3 NJD
|EN - Dainius Zubrus (11) ASST: Patrik Elias (31), Brian Gionta (27)|
5 - 3 NJD
|Mike Rupp Holding against Henrik Sedin|
|Shane O'Brien Hi-sticking against Zach Parise|
|Andy Greene Tripping against Alexandre Burrows|
|David Clarkson Interference on goalkeeper against Curtis Sanford|
|Patrik Elias Hooking against Daniel Sedin|
|Daniel Sedin Holding the stick against Patrik Elias|