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Devils edge Jackets in shootout

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. -- What is it about the shootout that seems to bring out the best in the New Jersey Devils?
"Well, we have some guys who are pretty good at it, and we have some goalies pretty good at stopping them," Devils captain Zach Parise said.
That combination was certainly on display Wednesday when Ilya Kovalchuk and Parise connected for goals and Martin Brodeur made a pair of saves during a shootout to lead the Devils to a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Prudential Center. The victory capped an extraordinary effort by the 39-year-old Brodeur, who finished with 35 saves to earn his fifth victory of the season.
The Devils (11-8-1) are now 5-1 in shootouts for 2011-12. Columbus, which had its two-game winning streak snapped, is 0-3 in shootouts.
"We'd love to end it before shootouts, but if we end up getting there, we feel pretty good about it," Parise said.
Kovalchuk opened the shootout competition with a quick snapshot from the left hash that beat Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford to the long side -- his fourth shootout goal in as many attempts this year. Brodeur would then deny Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash with a quick glove on the next attempt.
"I had no confidence in the shootout," Kovalchuk said. "I just closed my eyes and shot. The reason we won was because of Marty. He stood on his head."

Brodeur said Nash, who is 1-for-3 on shootout attempts, was basically limited to two shot choices on his one-on-one opportunity.
"I do my homework on everybody and the angle he was coming, I figured he had one of two moves that he could have made and I guessed right, I guess," Brodeur said.

Parise then forced Sanford (23 saves) to commit just enough before lofting a backhand attempt into the cage. He's now 5-of-6 in shootouts this season. Brodeur sealed the deal with a save on Mark Letestu, who made an unsuccessful attempt to go between Brodeur's pads.
"I think if I do them the right way and time them right, they're pretty tough to stop and right now," Parise said of his shootout attempts. "The timing is right and good right now. It's kind of nice going second since I could watch a little bit. I watched when Kovy went in and saw the replay to see what the goalie was doing."
The triumph was the third for the Devils in the last four games. The club will next play the New York Islanders in a home-in-home set on Friday on Long Island before returning to Newark for a matinee on Saturday.
The Blue Jackets (5-13-3), who are in the early stages of a stretch in which they play 19 games in 39 days, will play host to the Buffalo Sabres on Friday at Nationwide Arena.
"Columbus looked solid, to be honest," Brodeur said. "They allowed 24 shots and took 36. They earned a lot of power-play time and their big line played well. It was not an easy game by any stretch, let's put it that way."
The Blue Jackets pulled into a 1-1 tie at 6:01 of the third when Jared Boll knocked home his first of the season off a shot from the point that deflected off his skate. Columbus defenseman Marc Methot took the intial shot from the left point that Boll redirected past Brodeur. A video review of the goal by the referee confirmed that while the puck did deflect off Boll's skate, he did not use a distinct kicking motion when connecting for the equalizer.
The Devils opened a 1-0 lead 4:09 into the second when Dainius Zubrus found a rebound in the slot and swept a shot into the left corner while falling to the ice. Patrik Elias started the play when he skated around the Columbus net before feeding Adam Larsson at the right point. Larsson ripped a shot that Sanford stopped, but the rebound bounced to Zubrus, who scored for the third straight game.
Brodeur was called upon to make nine saves in the first, eight in the second, 16 in the third and two more in overtime before reaching the shootout. He was particularly sharp in the early stages of the third when Columbus was on a two-man advantage for 20 seconds with Cam Janssen and Parise in the box. Columbus outshot the Devils, 17-3, in the third.
"I think they really tightened up defensively and played a lot better than they were in the first and second and it was tougher for us to get opportunities in their end," Parise said. "We had a hard time getting out of our zone. When we're playing well, we're making those short passes and getting out of our zone easily, and I think they kind of took that away from us."
The Devils, who own the League's top penalty-killing unit, denied the Blue Jackets on six opportunities for the game. The biggest came with under 10 minutes left in regulation when Larsson was whistled for hooking -- Brodeur was called upon to make two saves on the ensuring penalty-kill to keep the game even, 1-1.
"I'm just happy I was able to be part of the win," Brodeur said. "I think the players in front of me did a good job too. Yeah, I made some saves, but guys were blocking shots at key times. In the skills competition in the end, we had two shooters who have been hot for us."
Parise feels the team has relatively played well at the quarter mark in the season.
"There's definitely games we feel we should of won, but I think we're playing OK," he said. "I think we're getting better and we're starting to play a little more consistently from game to game. Now, it's throughout in the game where we need to improve."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale
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