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Devils outlast Caps in 6-5 shootout win

by Brian Hunter /
Shootout victories have been just one of Martin Brodeur's specialties since the NHL instituted the penalty-shot tiebreaker for the 2005-06 season. With Brodeur sidelined for the long term after elbow surgery, the other goaltenders on the New Jersey Devils are proving to be quite capable in the shootout as well.

Scott Clemmensen stopped all three attempts by the Washington Capitals and Zach Parise scored the only goal in the first round as the Devils prevailed 6-5 Saturday night at Prudential Center in a wild, back-and-forth contest that featured a goal by Alexander Ovechkin with one second left in regulation to force overtime.

"He showed a lot of poise," Devils coach Brent Sutter said of his goalie. "He doesn't get rattled by those things. He has a very calm personality to begin with, and he brings that onto the ice."

The Devils snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 2-5 since Brodeur went down in a Nov. 1 victory against Atlanta. Both wins have come in the shootout, with Kevin Weekes stopping two of three attempts to help defeat Tampa Bay on Nov. 5.

Patrik Elias had two goals and an assist for the Devils, Travis Zajac collected three assists and David Clarkson, Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Gionta all scored to back Clemmensen, who picked up his first win since Jan. 1, when he was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"It gets your heart going," said Clemmensen, who made 25 saves through regulation and overtime.
"It was an exciting game to play, and I can say that now after we've won with a smile on my face, but it's a roller-coaster ride and hey, we needed something like that. It doesn't matter how we got it, but we got the win. We needed that."

One night after losing a defensive battle in Washington, 3-1, the Devils held four separate one-goal leads only to see the Capitals come back. Nicklas Backstrom finished with a five-point night, scoring his second goal of the season and adding four assists. Ovechkin had a pair of goals and an assist, while Tomas Fleischmann and Viktor Kozlov also tallied. Alexander Semin, who entered the night as the NHL's scoring leader before being passed by Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, sat out after sustaining an upper-body injury in Friday's contest.

The Capitals saw their five-game winning streak come to an end but salvaged a point when Backstrom was able to pull a loose puck out of a scrum in front and send it across to Ovechkin at the left of the net. He fired it home for his seventh of the season and fifth in his last four games, then sprinted to the Washington bench in jubilation to jump into the arms of his celebrating teammates.

"It was an unbelievable feeling," Ovechkin said. "You think the game is probably over and you score the goal. Your emotions start flying."

Clemmensen and the Devils rebounded, as the goalie stopped Kozlov, Ovechkin and Boyd Gordon in the shootout, making Parise's goal stand up. Clemmensen used a poke-check to knock the puck away from Gordon, who was taking his first career attempt, and end the game.

"As a goalie, you look for the things that are going to lead you to what he's going to do," Clemmensen said. "If he's got the puck beside him, he's going to shoot. If he's got it carried out in front of him he can't shoot with his hands extended out in front of him, so as soon as he came down to me like that at a slow speed I made up my mind I was going to go with the poke-check, and it's kind of live or die at that moment."

Prior to overtime it was more of a banner night for the shooters than the goalies, as the teams evenly split 10 goals over the course of 60 minutes. Clarkson got New Jersey off to a quick start by converting a John Madden feed just 1:09 into the first, but Washington answered on a Fleischmann power-play goal at 6:59 and Ovechkin's deflection of a Tyler Sloan shot with 51 seconds left in the period, giving the Capitals their only lead.

Langenbrunner and Elias quickly erased it with goals 2:46 apart early in the second period, but Kozlov scored with 3:17 left to draw Washington even heading into the third.

Elias put the Devils up 4-3 at 6:06 by blasting a shot from the left wing that went in off Jose Theodore's shoulder, but Backstrom tied it again 2:05 later. Gionta redirected a Johnny Oduya feed with 8:20 remaining, giving New Jersey another lead to protect, but it only held up for 8:19 with Ovechkin providing his late heroics.

"You look for positives," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We showed character in never quitting and we had an awful lot of chances to quit and die, because we made a ton of mistakes out there, but we ended up getting a point."

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.

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