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2008-09 in review: December's recovery

by Staff Writer / New Jersey Devils

The Devils won nine of 14 games in December, picking up 19 of a possible 28 points.

email – By the start of December, the Devils were hitting their stride while Martin Brodeur recovered from elbow surgery. By month's end, they had gone 9-4-1 to improve to 21-12-3 overall and ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference.

A loss to Pittsburgh in their final game of November had snapped a five-game winning streak, but Jersey’s Team regrouped for the start of a December run.

Clemmensen started all but one December contest.
They opened the month with a 3-2 overtime win in Philadelphia on Dec. 4. Patrik Elias scored twice: he tied the game at 2 with 1:30 left in regulation, then won it at the 2:46 mark of overtime, matching an NHL record with his 15th career OT tally [ 700K]. 

Zach Parise added his team-leading 14th goal of the season, while Scott Clemmensen, making his fourth straight start, stopped 29 shots for his fifth win. New Jersey got its first win in three tries against the rival Flyers and welcomed back Brian Rolston, who had missed the previous 18 games with an ankle injury.

Two days later, the Devils toppled Montreal, 2-1, to take a second straight overtime win. Jamie Langenbrunner scored, and Elias set up Parise just 31 seconds into the extra session to close out a 4-1-0 road trip. For Parise, the clincher was his fourth career overtime tally [ 700K].

Rejoining the Devils in Montreal was Bobby Holik, who had been out of action for 18 games with a broken pinkie.

Back home for Pittsburgh on Dec. 10, Parise ran his goal-scoring streak to three games and the Devils won their third in a row with a 4-1 defeat of the Penguins. Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus cracked the scoresheet, helping to lead the Devils to their eighth win in nine games. Elias buried an empty-netter, and Clemmensen carried a shutout to the 16:02 mark of the third period [ 700K].

The Devils made it four straight wins on Dec. 12 with an 8-5 rout of the New York Rangers. Roughly six weeks since losing Brodeur, New Jersey topped its cross-river rival for the first time in three meetings. 

Jay Pandolfo (SH) and Markus Naslund exchanged goals before New Jersey struck for four straight tallies and a 5-1 lead. Zajac scored back-to-back goals before Johnny Oduya (SHG) and Zubrus got on the board.

The Rangers rallied with four of their own to knot the contest at 5 with 8:42 remaining. But just 11 seconds after New York had tied it, Elias put home his franchise-leading 64th game-winner [ 700K].

Brian Gionta and Langenbrunner piled on two more goals as New Jersey beat Henrik Lundqvist three times in a span of 3:38 late in regulation. The eight-goal outburst was the Devils' first since an 8-2 win against Tampa Bay on Nov. 25, 2005, while the combined 13 tallies were the most in a Devils game since March 19, 1994 (8-6 win at Boston).

Parise finished with a game-high four assists, while Zubrus (1g-2a), Gionta (1g-3a), Langenbrunner (1g-1a), Zajac (2g), and Elias (1g-2a) all collected multipoint efforts. The Devils won for the ninth time in 10 games, and Clemmensen posted 31 saves to improve to 8-3-0.

A 4-2 home loss to Buffalo on Dec. 13 snapped the Devils' streak at four. Elias scored for a third straight game [ 700K], and Bobby Holik [ 700K] added his first of the season, but the Sabres scored three unanswered goals to decide it.

New Jersey then dropped its second straight with a 3-2 shootout loss at Toronto on Dec. 16. Mike Rupp scored his third goal in seven appearances [ 700K], and Parise potted his team-leading 17th (PP) [ 700K]. Elias recorded an assist in the game, extending his points streak to seven games.

Offense would put the Devils back in the wins column. The club scored 10 goals in its next two games en route to a three-game winning streak.

The Devils met the Sabres again on Dec. 17, and came out of Buffalo with a 5-3 win [ 700K]. Zajac scored 1:36 into the game to open the scoring, and Parise picked up his team-leading 18th (PP) on a 5-on-3 midway through the frame to break a 1-1 tie.

Bryce Salvador, Clarkson and Rolston scored. Elias got two assists to extend his points streak to a team season-high eight straight games (tie with Gionta). Clemmensen made 23 saves for his ninth win – the most by a Devils' netminder other than Brodeur since 1993-94, when Chris Terreri won 20.

The Devils welcomed Ottawa on Dec. 19, and secured their 11th victory in 14 games with a 5-1 thumping of the Senators [ 700K]. Elias netted two power play goals and two assists to stretch his points streak to a team season-high nine games, and matched John MacLean's club record of 169 career multipoint games. Parise added four assists for the second time in five contests. 

Gionta struck 40 seconds into the game, giving the Devils a team-record three-game streak in which they had scored within the first 2:00. New Jersey recorded three power play goals, including Oduya's eventual winner, and Clemmensen stopped 24 Ottawa shots for his 10th win.

Elias had an outstanding December that included a team season-high 10-game points streak (8g-9a-17pts).
The Devils made it three straight victories with a 3-2 shootout triumph over Philadelphia on Dec. 21 [ 700K]. Elias' power play marker gave him points in a team season-high 10 straight games, and Rolston potted his second goal in three contests.

The Flyers rallied to tie with less than five minutes to go, but Clemmensen answered the bell in the shootout. He stopped four of five Philadelphia attempts before Zajac buried the deciding goal in the fifth round.

Back-to-back shutout losses to Boston (Dec. 23) and Pittsburgh (Dec. 26) were bumps in the road, but the resilient Devils fought back with two straight wins.

A road meeting with the Rangers proved just the tonic the Devils needed. Rolson (PP) and Elias (SH) staked New Jersey to a 2-0 lead just 4:14 into the game, and Zajac and Parise added goals for a 4-2 win at Madison Square Garden [ 700K ].

Zajac chipped in with two assists to surpass the 100-point plateau for his career, while Parise picked up a helper to clear the 200-point mark. Elias (1g-1a) established a franchise record with his 170th multipoint effort.

A 4-3 decision over St. Louis on Dec. 30 handed the Devils their second straight road win [ 700K]. Parise notched his 20th early in the first period, but the Blues responded with two straight goals to take the lead.

Rolston opened the second period with his fourth goal in seven appearances, and Parise tacked on his 21st with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.

Pandolfo put New Jersey ahead by a pair until the Blues came back within a goal with 30 seconds to go in regulation. Clemmensen held on, making 28 saves to seal a win in the Devils' first trip to St. Louis since 2006.

The Devils wrapped up the three-game road trip with a 4-2 loss in Dallas on New Year's Eve.

Mike Mottau [ 700K] tied the game at 1 in the opening period before Clarkson [ 700K] got one on the power play. New Jersey, which closed out 2008 with a 46-27-7 mark for the calendar year (26-16-3 at home, 20-11-4 on the road).

Things would continue looking up in January, when the Devils emerged as one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

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