NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils will soon find out if they're finally starting to play with some consistency or if they're just experiencing more short-lived success. The test will come Friday, when they play the Anaheim Ducks, the second-best team in the NHL standings.
"It's going to be very tough," Jaromir Jagr said following New Jersey's 5-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday at Prudential Center.
For now, though, the Devils at least appear to be on their way to establishing the way they want to play for the rest of the season. They showed it Saturday in a shutout against the Tampa Bay Lightning and again in their rout of the Senators.
Martin Brodeur made 23 saves for his first two-game winning streak in a month, and the Devils got goals from five players, including one shorthanded and one on the power play.
Ottawa scored twice on the power play but failed to build on its 3-2 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues on Monday. Robin Lehner, in his third straight start, made 28 saves, but the Senators could not beat Brodeur at even strength.
The Senators held a closed-door meeting following the game with management, coaches and players in the room. The message was clear.
"It wasn't a friendly [meeting]," Senators alternate captain Chris Phillips said. "It was, 'We gotta be better.' We gotta expect more from ourselves and play better as a team."
Ottawa plays at home against the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Florida has won four in a row and six of its past seven.
"We're going to need an answer after this one," captain Jason Spezza said. "So hopefully we can bring it [Thursday]."
The Devils brought it Wednesday, even though the Senators felt the home team got away with two penalties that each led to a goal.
Ottawa coach Paul MacLean was yelling for a tripping penalty on Michael Ryder in the first period that never came. Instead, the Devils had an outnumbered rush with defenseman Joe Corvo down on the ice in the far end, and rookie forward Reid Boucher cashed in with his first NHL goal to give New Jersey a 2-0 lead at 12:08 of the first period.
"It was a relief to finally get it out of the way," Boucher said. "I felt like I was close and that I was getting the chances. Fortunately, I was able to get that one to go into the net."
MacLean was similarly incensed when Damien Brunner scored to make it 4-1 at 19:32 of the second period. MacLean wanted a slashing penalty on Brunner that he didn't get, and instead the Devils forward scored a highlight-reel goal.
Brunner knocked Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen's stick out of his hand, gathered the puck on his backhand, moved it to his forehand, and waited for Lehner to slide over before he quickly switched it to his backhand to slide the puck into the left side of the net. It was Brunner's fourth goal in four games after he went his previous 17 without one.
"It's only a penalty when [the referee] puts his arm up, but in lots of games this season those have been called, especially when the team gains an advantage like they did and scored two goals; both goals give them two-goal leads in the game," MacLean said. "It could be a real different game if those calls are made, but the referee sees it a different way than we do. But for the most part our effort in the game was not even close to good enough to win and we can't be begging the referees and we can't be begging the League to say they're doing us wrong. We're doing us wrong."
The Devils set the tone when forward Stephen Gionta, who missed the previous 11 games with an ankle injury, gave them a 1-0 lead with a shorthanded goal 2:02 into the first period. Corvo failed the keep the puck in at the left point, springing Adam Henrique and Gionta for a 2-on-1 against Erik Karlsson. Henrique fed Gionta, who had time to gather the puck and shoot from the right hash marks.
"It's not the way you want to start a game, getting a power play against, but it worked out well," Brodeur said. "We scored on it, and from there they were disorganized."
New Jersey scored again on special teams early in the second period to make it 3-0. This one was a historic power-play goal that came off Jagr's stick.
The goal moved Jagr into sole possession of eighth place on the NHL all-time goals list (693, breaking a tie with Steve Yzerman) and would eventually give him the NHL record for most game-winning goals (122). Jagr's next goal will tie him with Mark Messier for seventh place on the goals list.
"We had a 2-0 lead and I felt it's the first time in a while that we had a game under control," Jagr said.
Ottawa got a power-play goal from Colin Greening less than three minutes after Jagr scored and started to control play. The Devils took momentum back when Brunner scored in the final minute of the second period.
"A little bit slipped when they scored on the power play, and then they had like a seven- or eight-minute window when we didn't play very good hockey," Jagr said. "I was kind of afraid. I didn't want the same thing to happen to us like what happened in Columbus (blew a two-goal lead, lost 5-4 last Tuesday), but we scored the fourth one and saved some energy."
Ottawa would again slice the lead to two when Milan Michalek scored a power-play goal 8:35 into the third period, but Gelinas scored 45 seconds later to give the Devils the distance they needed and the opportunity to start preparing for what lies ahead.
"We're going to play Anaheim, I think they're one of the best teams," Jagr said. "For me, [Ryan] Getzlaf is the MVP. It's going to be a big challenge to play against him down low. It's pretty tough."