It’s not that Martin Brodeur
is blasé about winning 30 games in a season. It’s just that he’s so used to doing it.
"It's one of the things I set for myself," Brodeur said after the New Jersey Devils' 3-2 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators at the Prudential Center on Wednesday night. "Thirty games at the end of the year is not a big number. But not that many goalies do it in consecutive years, so it's nice.
"Now I'll look forward to try to hit 35 next."
Brodeur reached the milestone when Brian Gionta scored his first goal in 14 games, picking up Jamie Langenbrunner’s rebound and shrugging off a check before whipping a wrist shot past Martin Gerber.
"It's huge for us," said Gionta, who hadn't scored since Jan. 10. "We battled hard most of the night and made some good things happen."
New Jersey moved within one point of Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh and are five behind the Senators, the top team in the Eastern Conference. The Devils play at Ottawa on Saturday.
"We're happy about the way we played," said Brodeur, who started his 16th straight game and finished with 23 saves. "It's nice to win against the best team, but it's the way we competed against them. They scored some momentum goals, but it didn't matter. We stuck to our game plan.”
Low-scoring defenseman Luke Richardson started the scoring for the Senators, firing a shot from the point that skipped through traffic and past Brodeur 5:25 into the game. It was only the second goal this season for Richardson, who has 35 in his 20-year NHL career.
Langenbrunner and Karel Rachunek scored in a 1:52 span of the second period to put New Jersey ahead. But Randy Robitaille tied it at 15:29 with a blast from the left circle that caught the far corner. Richardson assisted, giving him two points in a game for the first time since Dec. 3, 2002.
Though they got a point, the Senators fell to 2-4-1 in their last seven games.
"It's good to hit a bump here and there to find out what it really takes to win," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said.
One good sign for Ottawa was the play of Gerber, who stopped 28 shots after allowing seven goals on 47 shots in his two most recent starts — both losses.
"It felt good to get some ice under my feet," he said. "It was a tough first few minutes to get things going. After a while, I felt OK."
Canadiens 2, Panthers 1, OT | Video
Christopher Higgins and Alex Kovalev spoiled the night for the Panthers, who had injured forward Richard Zednik on their minds and would have liked nothing more that to win their first game since he had his carotid artery sliced during Sunday’s game in Buffalo.
Reminders of Zednik were everywhere at BankAtlantic Center. A blood drive — a nod to Zednik needing five units of blood at Buffalo General Hospital — took place outside the building, and the team ended its pregame ceremonies with a brief video tribute to the injured forward.
"I think we responded well," said captain Olli Jokinen, who spoke with Zednik earlier Wednesday. "We played hard. We just didn't find a way to score. "Zed's spirit is still here," Jokinen added. "And we're going to do all we can for him and his family."
The Panthers nearly made Steve Montador’s first-period power-play goal stand up. But the Canadiens finally solved Tomas Vokoun with 7:26 left when Higgins got his stick on a bouncing puck and deflected it into the net.
"We were just trying to find a way to beat Vokoun, and we did it with a harmless play," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said.
The Panthers were flat at the start of overtime and paid the price. Defenseman Jassen Cullimore took a hooking penalty and Kovalev rifled a wrist shot from inside the right circle through a screen and past Vokoun at 1:43 to end Montreal’s three-game losing streak.
"It was really important we got the win tonight," said Montreal goaltender Carey Price, who stopped 35 shots. "We haven't been playing as well as we'd like to. It was definitely a step in the right direction."
Doctors believe Zednik could be back in South Florida by the weekend, and on Wednesday, Zednik's wife released a statement thanking countless people for their support.
"Richard continues to improve and we are encouraged each day," Jessica Zednik said. "We thank you for respecting our privacy and would ask everyone to continue to keep Richard in their thoughts over the next few days."
Bruins 2, Penguins 1 | Video
Getting away from home was just the tonic for the Bruins, who’ve lost their last four home games but won for the fifth time in their last six on the road by scoring twice in the first period and holding off the Penguins.
With one of their top scorers, Chuck Kobasew, sidelined with a back injury sustained in Wednesday’s home loss to Carolina, the Bruins got scoring from a pair of rookies. Petteri Nokelainen beat Ty Conklin with a wrist shot 12:58 into the game and Vladimir Sobotka tipped Jeremy Reich’s pass into the net at 14:43 for his first NHL goal.
"The first period was one of the worst we've played this year," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "Right now we are relying on our first line, Malkin's line to carry the team. We can't expect to score three to four goals a night. It is not going to happen. Right now, our depth players aren't chipping in."
In contrast, both Boston goals were scored by players who don’t skate on the top two lines.
"I'm just so happy I scored my first goal in the NHL," said Sobotka, who is certain his parents were watching in the Czech Republic. "I just shot the puck and he [Conklin] went down — it was a lucky goal, but it was my first goal, so I'm glad."
Boston’s checkers and goalie Tim Thomas did the rest. The Bruins limited Pittsburgh to just 21 shots, and Evgeni Malkin’s power-play wrist shot with 6:58 left in regulation was the only one to beat him. The Penguins had just one goal in eight power-play chances.
"I just tried to keep my game simple ... and not make it harder than it was," said Thomas, who rebounded from a loss in his last outing. "The penalty killers won the game for us. I thought we were ready from the beginning to play our game, the kind of game we set out to play. We were doing all the little things."
The victory lifted the Bruins back into eighth place in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race, one point ahead of the idle New York Rangers.
"Points are so important this time of year," Thomas said. "That was a great battle today. Both teams were hungry."
But the win may have come at a price. Boston defenseman Aaron Ward was taken to a hospital with a neck injury after being hurt early in the second period. Ward was not bleeding when he left the ice, but coach Claude Julien said he coughed up some blood.
The Bruins did not immediately reveal the nature of the injury, but Julien said Ward would remain in the hospital for at least a day. Ward was listed in stable condition.
Thrashers 3, Capitals 2, SO | Video
Atlanta scored on both of its shootout attempts to get two points after Kari Lehtonen’s acrobatics got the Thrashers past regulation.
Lehtonen made 39 saves in regulation and overtime, then stopped both Washington attempts in the shootout. Eric Perrin and Slava Kozlov scored in the shootout for the Thrashers, leaving Atlanta, Washington and Carolina tied atop the Southeast Division with 60 points, though the Caps have a game in hand.
|Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen made 39 saves in regulation and overtime, then both Washington attempts in the shootout.
"He won the game for them," Washington defenseman Mike Green said of Lehtonen. "He is a great goalie. We didn't put enough traffic in front of him. He saw every shot."
The Thrashers improved to 7-4 in shootouts and 13-4 in overtime. They were just 1:21 away from winning in regulation, but Alexander Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 48th goal on a wrist shot from the left circle to force overtime.
"Anytime you come back in the final two minutes to tie the game, it's a positive thing," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Obviously, we'd like two points, but one point to get into the 60-point category is better than no points.”
Boudreau said he expects the division race to remain tight.
"It's like playoff hockey from here on out,” he said. “I don't foresee any team pulling away and winning the division by eight or 10 points.”
Viktor Kozlov beat Lehtonen with a wrist shot 2:56 into the second period to open the scoring. But Marian Hossa set up Perrin’s tying goal at 16:29, then took Lehtonen’s breakaway pass and beat Olaf Kolzig at 19:03 to put Atlanta ahead.
"He saw me right away," Hossa said of Lehtonen. "We had a little eye contact. It's like half a second. He made a very good pass to me. I was just hoping. I was all open. I had a lot of time to do something."
Hossa and the Thrashers will not play another home game until Feb. 28, two days after the NHL's trade deadline. Thrashers general manager and interim coach Don Waddell still hopes to re-sign Hossa but acknowledged a trade is an option.
"You never think about it," Hossa said. "You try to have fun. Have fun with the guys. That's the only way to handle it."
Blackhawks 7, Blue Jackets 2 | Video
Chicago coach Denis Savard ripped his team’s commitment after a 1-0 loss to Columbus on Jan. 24. He had to be a lot happier with what he saw this time, as the Blackhawks got two goals by Dustin Byfuglien in a four-goal first period and routed the Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
"It was a good team effort all around," Byfuglien said. "We came right out of the gates hungry and ready to go. We needed a win to turn things around. Everything's looking positive right now."
The Hawks heard the sweet sound of the home team getting booed after scoring four times in the opening period. Patrick Kane scored on the power play at 3:55, Brent Seabrook added a breakaway goal and Byfuglien scored twice in less than three minutes, beating Fredrik Norrena at 14:09 and jamming Brent Sopel’s rebound past Pascal Leclaire at 17:03.
Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock was no happier than the fans.
"These are not rookie mistakes. These are fundamental errors made by good players," the visibly upset coach said. "Hockey's a game of emotion and intensity and when the other team has it and you don't, you're not going to have very many successful nights. That's what happened tonight."
Dick Tarnstrom got Columbus on the board 1:25 into the second period, but Martin Havlat restored Chicago’s four-goal edge at 7:59 when he converted Robert Lang’s feed. Columbus’ Fredrik Modin and Chicago’s James Wisniewski exchanged goals late in the second period and Lang added a late third-period goal.
Columbus came into the game just four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"This will take us one way or the other," Hitchcock said. "We're either going to go up and grab this thing or we're going to go [making a sound like a balloon rapidly deflating]."
The Blackhawks are still on the periphery of the playoff race, but feel they have a chance if they can continue to play like they did against Columbus.
"We know how good we can be," Seabrook said. "Columbus is a great team; they're so great defensively. They don't give up much. To have sort of an outbreak like that gives us confidence that we can score against any team in the league."
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.