For the second time in three games, Elias deposited the decisive goal in the third round of the tiebreaker to lift the Devils to a 3-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday before 17,625 at Prudential Center.
"I just came in on the left side, and skated across to try and space it in [on Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec]," Elias said. "You just try and make a move, then you react to it."
When Elias skated through the crease, Pavelec opened up and the 36-year-old veteran slid it between the pads to the delight of the hometown faithful. The winner off the stick of Elias was only made possible by the superb goaltending of New Jersey's Johan Hedberg, who finished with 23 saves.
Hedberg denied Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd to win his fourth of the season and second straight home game via shootout -- the Devils rallied to beat Buffalo on Thursday. Pavelec, Hedberg's former teammate in Atlanta, finished with 25 saves.
"We played a great game … it seems like all the goalies we play have their best games against us," Hedberg said. "We kept pushing and pushing and doing all the good things to get two goals and [Winnipeg] got one bounce and were back in the game."
Hedberg was called upon to make five saves in the overtime, including a cannon slap shot from the left point by Zach Bogosian at 2:46. Kane also got loose with 5.8 seconds left and took a wicked wrist shot from the top of the right circle that deflected off defenseman Bryce Salvador before reaching Hedberg, who snared the puck with his left glove.
"That's a bounce I need to get us back on track," Hedberg said. "Things haven't been going my way too much, but I'll take that. You create your own luck, and we were due for some."
"I think Ondrej played phenomenal and he made some big saves for them," Hedberg praised. "There were times I thought for sure it was a goal, and he got some part of his body there. He was impressive."
The victory was the second in three games for the Devils, who now prepare for a home-and-home set with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Devils, who remain in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings with 29 points, play host to the Flyers on Wednesday and travel to Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Friday.
"I thought it was a gutsy effort by our group, playing seven games in 11 nights and playing [Saturday] on the road and Winnipeg sitting here rested," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think our group was determined to win. That was from the drop of the puck at the start of the game right through to the shootout."
The Jets closed out their four-game road trip with a 2-1-1 record. Winnipeg, ninth in the East with 26 points, will now play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday and New York Rangers on Thursday.
"We got five points and we're going home and we know we have to be better," Pavelec said. "We need a better start, that's for sure. The points are great, but we won't be a success if we play like we did."
Kane pulled the Jets into a 2-2 tie 17:19 into the second with his 10th goal of the season. The fourth-year forward skated down his left wing on a 2-on-1 against Devils defenseman Andy Greene before unleashing a picturesque wrist shot from the left circle that beat Hedberg high to the long side.
The goal came less than a minute after Pavelec had made a series of stops at the other end, including a diving blocker save on Steve Bernier. With the momentum clearly on their side, the Jets continued to press late in the period, and Kyle Wellwood's blast with just seconds left rang off the goal post.
The Jets somehow managed to escape the opening 20 minutes trailing by only one goal despite being outplayed and outshot 11-5.
"It was a miracle that we were still in this game after the first -- it was maybe our worst period of the year," Pavelec said. "They hit the post a couple of times and it could easily have been 4-1, and no one would have been surprised."
The Devils opened a 2-0 lead on goals by Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta in the first. Anton Volchenkov helped begin the scoring 8:47 into the first when his dump-in from the left point took an odd bounce off the glass behind the cage and caromed in front to Travis Zajac. Pavelec made the initial save, but Zajac slid the rebound back to Carter, who lofted a shot over the goalie off a spin-o-rama backhand attempt. The goal snapped a streak of nine straight games in which the Devils had allowed the first goal.
"It feels like a month since we've had the first goal of the game," DeBoer said.
Gionta's third goal of the season 1:25 later came off a great individual effort. He skated hard down his left wing before breaking in towards Pavelec and beating the goalie between the pads.
"It was one of our best starts of the season and we got rewarded for it," Gionta said.
Winnipeg pulled within 2-1 at 16:17 when Mark Stuart took a harmless-looking snap shot from the left wing half-boards that deflected off the blade of Greene in front of the net and went up and over Hedberg.
"We've seen [those bounces] before," Hedberg said. "It didn't affect me or Greeny. As a team, we responded well. The thought of 'Here we go again ran through my head, but I didn't want it in there.' A lot of time, it's a mental battle, but you just have to stay sharp."
The Devils barely missed at regaining a two-goal lead in the final 30 seconds when Adam Henrique's blistering wrist shot rang off the right post with his team on the power play. Instead, the Jets finished off their 22nd straight penalty kill, including all 12 on this four-game road swing.
Clarkson received a scare on his first shift of the game when he was hit above the left eye by a deflected puck. After receiving some medical treatment on the bench, however, he was back on the ice.
|Ryan Carter (3) ASST: Travis Zajac (4), Anton Volchenkov (3)|
1 - 0 NJD
|Stephen Gionta (3) ASST: Ilya Kovalchuk (14), Adam Larsson (4)|
2 - 0 NJD
|Mark Stuart (2) ASST: Nik Antropov (8), Antti Miettinen (1)|
2 - 1 NJD
|Evander Kane (10) ASST: Mark Stuart (1)|
2 - 2 Tie
|1||I. Kovalchuk||B. Wheeler|
|2||D. Clarkson||E. Kane|
|3||P. Elias||A. Ladd|
|Grant Clitsome Holding against Andrei Loktionov|
|Ilya Kovalchuk Tripping against Grant Clitsome|