NEWARK , N.J. -- It took a few games, but new/old coach Jacques Lemaire has the New Jersey Devils purring like a well-oiled machine.
The Devils ground up another opponent on Wednesday, getting timely goals, stellar penalty-killing and a 31-save performance by Martin Brodeur on the way to a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks before 14,123 at Prudential Center.
With six consecutive wins, these Devils look nothing like the team that dropped its first two games and had their fans wondering if Lemaire's return behind the bench was really a good idea.
"After those first few games, who would have thought we'd be in the position we are right now?" captain Jamie Langenbrunner asked. "But we believed in this group and the people here. Obviously, we're not playing with a full lineup but guys are stepping up and playing well and that's the greatest thing about this organization. It doesn't matter who's in the lineup; we go out and expect to win every night."
New Jersey has allowed just seven goals in its six-game-winning streak and moved into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with the Pittsburgh Penguins, their opponent at Mellon Arena on Thursday night. The Devils are 8-0-0 on the road, including a 4-1 win at Pittsburgh on Oct. 24.
"We're just playing and working hard and I think a lot of credit has to go to all the guys playing and young guys stepping in," forward Patrik Elias said. "I thought Timmy (Sestito) played very well tonight."
Elias made just his second start of the season as he continues to recover from off-season groin surgery. He said he'll see how he feels Thursday morning before deciding on whether he'll give it a go against the Penguins.
"I think (Elias) is getting more and more comfortable," Langenbrunner said. "It was tough that first game but I thought he was creating more tonight. He'll get better and better as we go along here."
The Devils led 2-1 when Zach Parise delivered the knockout blow with just 12.7 seconds left in the second period by scoring a shorthanded goal. A perfectly placed outlet pass from Langenbrunner sprung him for a breakaway, and he knocked in his own rebound for a 3-1 lead.
"Zach's goal was a big one," Langenbrunner said. "He normally doesn't penalty-kill a lot but it seems like, whenever he does get out there, something good happens. He's a pretty dangerous player."
Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller said Parise's goal was a backbreaker.
"It was kind of a lucky goal because I made the stop and couldn't find the rebound and it bounced in," Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller said. "That's a tough one because here we're looking to make it 2-2 on the power-play and they score on the PK to make it 3-1. I think we're thinking too much about mistakes instead of just playing. We have to fight through situations. Small mistakes decide games and we made too many today."
Parise is reveling in the fact his time on the penalty kill has increased under Lemaire.
"I like it a lot," said Parise, named the game's first star. "It's a lot better than sitting on the bench for two minutes. I like that responsibility and want to get comfortable in those situations."
The Devils' penalty-killing unit continues to do the job. New Jersey has killed off all 17 opposition power plays during the six-game winning streak -- including Anaheim's six chances on Wednesday.
"We don't like to get in these types of situations being shorthanded, but I think we're rolling the guys a lot and not chasing pucks like we were earlier in the season," Brodeur said. "We're not tired; not staying out there a whole minute on the PK. We're quick on the puck and that's been the secret."
Langenbrunner is extremely pleased with the team's effort while a man short.
"Jacques' penalty-killing (philosophy) has always been pretty solid, and he's a smart coach," Langenbrunner said. "He can dissect their power-play a little bit and he does a great job changing things up a little bit in order to allow Marty to know where the shots will be coming from."
David Clarkson, who was whistled for a pair of minor penalties in the opening period, snapped a 1-1 tie with 7:08 left in the second. After Devils defenseman Andy Greene led Clarkson in stride at the Ducks' blue line, the third-year forward sped down the middle before toe-dragging the puck around defenseman James Wisniewski between the circles and then driving a shot between Hiller and the right post
"That was a nice goal," Brodeur said with a smile. "I always told him the toe-drag doesn't work in this League but he showed us wrong."
Added Parise: "I think he's been watching Zubby (Dainius Zubrus) in practice. It was a great move. Any time you can toe drag a guy in this League, it's a great move."
The Devils opened a 1-0 lead just 38 seconds into the game when Langenbrunner tipped home a point shot by Greene from between the circles. Parise got the second assist on the play.
Anaheim's top line had pulled the Ducks even at 2:25 of the second when Corey Perry connected for his team-leading 12th goal of the season off assists from Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf. The goal extended point streaks for all three Anaheim players -- Perry is riding a career-high nine-game streak (8 goals, 12 points), Getzlaf's streak has reached nine (12 assists, 13 points) and Ryan has recorded a point in four straight (2 goals, 4 points).
But that was all the Ducks could manage, despite a half-dozen power plays.
"We didn't win any of those loose-puck battles on the power play," coach Randy Carlyle said. "We didn't create much until the last one when we started to shoot the puck more. When you've got an opportunity, you've got to take the most of it. Giving up the short-handed goal took a lot of momentum away from us."
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