The New Jersey Devils emerged from the Olympic break with an offense.
They scored three times in the first nine minutes and defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 Thursday at Prudential Center.
Ryane Clowe, Jaromir Jagr and Adam Henrique scored in a 2:45 span for the Devils, who did not have three goals in regulation in any of the six games leading into the NHL hiatus for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. New Jersey entered play ranked 27th in the League in goals scored.
"I think we kind of stressed over the last week ... that we wanted to create more offense," Clowe told MSG Network. "That's what we talked about. And to be able to come out and put one on the board early, and then gain momentum and score two more was definitely key. You don't want to overthink it, but we needed to score more goals and we need to get more pucks to the net. We did that tonight."
Henrique made it 4-2 when he added a shorthanded goal with 19 seconds to go in the second period, and Patrik Elias scored into an empty net for the Devils, who won in regulation for the first time since Jan. 24. It was Henrique's third career two-goal game.
"I think we just rejuvenated ourselves," Henrique said. "Everybody got away, got some rest, came back fresh, and everybody was excited to get started tonight."
Marian Gaborik scored in his return to the Columbus lineup, and Artem Anisimov had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets, who lost their third in a row and are 3-5-1 since an eight-game winning streak.
''We have to get rolling again,'' Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray told The Associated Press. ''That was not our hockey. We got outshot, and that's not our game, getting outshot and getting outplayed.''
New Jersey (25-22-13) and Columbus (29-25-5) are tied with 63 points competing for third place in the Metropolitan Division or a possible wild-card berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
"It's a big win coming back, especially against these guys," Henrique said. "We're close in the standings, so it just gives the extra confidence, and we've got to keep moving forward from now on till the end of the season."
The Devils held the Blue Jackets to three shots in the third period and defeated them for the first time in four games. New Jersey outshot Columbus 35-19.
"Not all of them were grade-A chances, but you create rebounds, you create havoc, you wear them out," Devils goalie Cory Schneider said. "Especially in the first 10 minutes, we made some nice plays, got some good bounces, and that's what happens. Great effort from our guys, and it's a good win coming out of the break."
Jagr's goal was the 699th of his NHL career. It came on a power play when his shot from behind the goal line went into the net off the leg of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky 7:31 into the game. Bobrovsky, playing for the first time since participating in the Olympics for Russia, could not secure a hard shot by Eric Gelinas, giving Jagr his opportunity.
Clowe gave the Devils a 1-0 lead at 6:09. Andrei Loktionov stole the puck to keep it in the offensive zone and his shot ricocheted to Clowe in the high slot. Clowe got two more deflections back to him and sent his third attempt stick-side past Bobrovsky.
Henrique was given credit for making it 3-0 when a power-play wrist shot taken by Andy Greene from near the center of the blue line deflected off him into the net at 8:54.
"I think we came back, everyone hit the reset button," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "There were a lot of guys that were squeezing their stick pretty tightly heading into the break. A break like that has a way of really refreshing you. It's almost like a new season. A lot of guys cleared their heads and it was nice for them to get on the board. Hopefully we can carry that over."
The Devils were scoreless on their previous 12 power-play chances, and the Blue Jackets had killed off 23 straight penalties.
"We talked about penalty kill and specialty teams in general," Columbus forward Brandon Dubinsky told The Sports Xchange. "Our coaches spend a lot time pre-scouting. We spend a lot of time having meetings about it. … So for us to give up two power-play goals like that in a row, that can't happen."
Anisimov scored at 11:36 of the first. Skating along the right-wing boards at the goal line, his zero-angle attempt toward the net went in off Schneider's stick.
"Obviously not the way I wanted to start. Just an awful goal," Schneider said. "That was absolutely not the way I wanted to start. But fortunately we had a little margin for error and my guys really bailed me out. It would have been really tough if that ended up factoring into the game. You have to just move on, and our guys did the rest."
Gaborik made it 3-2 at 11:42 of the second period. Defenseman Jack Johnson's pass from behind the Devils net bounced high to Gaborik in front, where he tapped it down before flicking it for his sixth goal in 19 games this season. Gaborik was playing after missing 22 games with a broken collarbone, which he sustained after missing 18 games with a knee injury.
Henrique extended New Jersey's lead after Elias sent a loose puck high into the air into the offensive zone. It landed at Henrique's skates, and he went in alone to beat Bobrovsky five-hole at 19:41.
"It was great patience by Patty there, just to float it over the defenseman's head," Henrique said. "Luckily it landed flat enough for me to get a good break. It was a big goal for us at the time, going back up by two going into the third."
DeBoer said, "Not many guys in the world can make that pass, or would even consider attempting it. It was a great play."
Elias was away from the team Wednesday for the birth of his daughter. He had two assists and was trying for a third, but his attempt to get Henrique a hat trick deflected in off a Columbus defender and into the empty net. Elias kept the puck from the goal as a memento.
"She won't know about it probably till she's a teenager, but I do," he said.
The Devils finished the game without captain Bryce Salvador after the defenseman was hit with a slap shot near his right shoulder in the first minute of the third period. Forward Damien Brunner left the game with a lower-body injury after playing two shifts in the first period. DeBoer did not have an update on either after the game.
The coach said goalie Martin Brodeur will start Saturday at the New York Islanders; it will be his first appearance since Jan. 26, a span of seven games.