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Devils defeat Sabres with Bernier, Schneider

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- If the New Jersey Devils are to keep pace with the other contenders in the Eastern Conference, coach Peter DeBoer knows secondary scoring will be a key.

That's precisely what Steve Bernier provided Saturday when he connected for his first goal in 20 games with 40.2 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Devils a 1-0 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at Prudential Center.

It was the first overtime goal of Bernier's career.

"Everyone's happy for him," DeBoer said. "The goals haven't come for him, but the work ethic is always there with him; he always brings the same thing every night. It's well-deserved and overdue, but we'll take it."

Bernier broke into the Sabres zone with defenseman Andy Greene before entering the left circle and unleashing a shot that beat Jhonas Enroth to the long side. Bernier waited until Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk backed into his zone to partially screen Enroth before scoring his second of the season.

"Everything [Enroth] saw, he was going to stop, so when I took the shot, their defenseman was screening a little bit," Bernier said. "I was hoping to shoot it high and the puck got in. You never know what can happen when you shoot the puck. That's exactly what I tried, and I scored. It's nice for sure.

"I've been having lot of chances … it's nice to help the team in some ways and I'm glad we got the win."

Cory Schneider, who was making his second straight start after a win Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes, stopped 15 shots for his second shutout of the season.

The victory was the second straight for the Devils (11-11-5), who travel to Bell Centre to face the Montreal Canadiens on Monday. Martin Brodeur is expected the game in Montreal.

The Sabres (6-20-2) host the New York Rangers on Thursday. Buffalo, which beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime at home on Friday, took three of four possible points this weekend.

“It wasn’t the most exciting hockey game, but when you come on the road, that’s what you want to do and overall, I like the way we competed from the second period on,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said.

Schneider knows that as a member of the Devils, one goal could always be the difference.

"I don't expect [a one-goal game] or think about it, but it doesn't matter if it's scoreless or tied 2-2 late in the game," Schneider said. "You've got to be one save better to give your team a chance. When you're giving up under 20 shots a night, sometimes one goal is enough."

Schneider has won his past three starts and is 3-1-1 with an 0.97 goals-against average and .957 save percentage in five starts since Nov. 8.

"He was strong [against Carolina] and gave us a chance to win it in the third, and [against Buffalo] it was the same thing," Bernier said. "They had three power-play chances in a row in the second [period] and he made a few key saves to keep it scoreless. It was a great effort by him."

The Devils had plenty of opportunities to end the game in regulation. Travis Zajac, who generated a game-high four shots, couldn't solve Enroth, who made 23 saves in his first start since a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 16.

Greene barely missed scoring 7:10 into the third when he collected a feed from Adam Henrique between the circles but fired wide of the net. Henrique rang the short-side post from the left circle at 11:58, and Zajac saw his quick wrist shot from the slot scooped up by Enroth at 12:42.

New Jersey, the least-penalized team in the NHL, has successfully killed 16 shorthanded situations in its past six games. New Jersey owns the League's best penalty-killing record at home (32 of 34, 94.1 percent) and is second overall (78 of 89, 87.6 percent) behind the Vancouver Canucks (88.0 percent).

Schneider, who is 4-5-3 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .927 save percentage, was happy to contribute to the Devils' success.

"All I want to do is help this team win and be productive," he said. "You have to play well and produce. When you get in there and get your chance you want to pile up wins."

Schneider last had wins on consecutive nights as a member of the Vancouver Canucks last season against the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche, March 23-24. Those wins were part of a personal six-game winning streak.

His best save in the first two periods Saturday may have been 17:44 into the second when he denied a slap shot from the left circle by Tyler Ennis, steering it into the right corner with his left pad.

The best scoring opportunity in the first period came at 10:25 when Zajac stole an attempted pass by Alexander Sulzer between the circles and unloaded a slap shot Enroth denied with his right pad. Zajac had another opportunity with less than two minutes remaining when he broke in on a 2-on-1 but whiffed on the pass at the right post.

Patrik Elias rang a shot off the left post with 38 seconds left, and Pysyk cleared a puck near the goal line that Bernier would have easily tapped home five seconds later. Elias made a nice move to get into prime position 3:27 into the second before unleashing a wrist shot from the right hash that Enroth stopped with his pad.

"[Schneider] made the saves when we needed them," Elias said. "I thought our line [with Henrique and Bernier] had three or four good opportunities that we should have buried earlier."

That line accounted for six of New Jersey's 24 shots.

"You cannot rely on one guy or line and we needed that goal from [Bernier]," Elias said. "[Bernier] has been playing well and he's a good hockey player. He works hard, keeps it simple and has a good shot which he showed [Saturday]."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

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