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Schneider makes 33 saves, Devils blank Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Tired legs or not, the New Jersey Devils were not going to let the lead slip away against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Playing less than 24 hours after losing at home to the Boston Bruins in overtime, the Devils got a first-period goal by Andy Greene, an empty-netter from Travis Zajac, and 33 saves from Cory Schneider in a 2-0 victory at Nationwide Arena on Saturday.

Greene's goal came after the fresher Blue Jackets dominated the opening 15 minutes.

"We played pretty well in the second," he said. "The third, a little fatigue set in. I think it was our sixth game in nine nights. We stuck together and found a way to win."

The Devils (26-27-10) ended a two-game losing streak and are 5-1-1 in the past seven games.

They gave the Blue Jackets little room to skate and limited their quality scoring chances.

"It was an extension of the way we played last night the last two periods," Devils co-coach Lou Lamoriello said. “It starts with our goaltender. We go through our defense then we get to our forwards. Right now that’s our assets and strengths and you work off that. Cory was once again outstanding."

Schneider has four shutouts this season and 16 in his NHL career.

Zajac scored into an empty net with 30 seconds left in the third period after Schneider stopped an Alexander Wennberg shot and a rebound attempt by Nick Foligno.

"We took a little bit to get our legs going there in the first period," Schneider said. "That’s to be expected in a back-to-back. After the first we settled in nicely. Sometimes you have to grind out these road games, especially on the second half of a back-to-back."

Zajac became the fifth Devils player to reach double-digits in goals, scoring his 10th.

"We're doing a better job of closing [games] out," he said. "That’s how we're getting our points."

Columbus (26-31-4) has lost five straight.

The Blue Jackets had an opportunity to tie the game with 7:07 left in the third period when Devils defenseman Mark Fraser was called for hooking. Columbus got four shots but could not get one past Schneider on the last of its three power plays.

"We're struggling a little bit," Columbus center Ryan Johansen said. "The power play needs to step up. We’ve got to keep working at that and stay patient."

New Jersey was outshot 9-0 in the first period until Jacob Josefson's shot on McElhinney with 5:10 remaining. Less than two minutes later, the Devils went ahead on their third shot.

"I really liked our first," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "They didn't spend a lot of time in our zone. It was disappointing coming out down 1-0 after the period."

Greene took an entry pass from Patrik Elias to the left circle, where he put a rising shot to the upper right corner of the net past McElhinney's glove with 4:13 left in the period. It was Greene's second goal of the season.

"I was trying to put it on net and found a hole," Greene said. "I was trying to go low blocker. I got a good shot off."

Columbus finished the first period with nine shots and had none the final eight minutes.

"I made some good saves but it's that one missed opportunity that ended up deciding the game," McElhinney said. "That's a difficult thing to accept right now."

Former Devils forward David Clarkson made his Columbus debut after being traded to the Blue Jackets by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday for forward Nathan Horton.

Clarkson spent his first six seasons with the Devils before signing with Toronto in July 2013.

"I thought as a team we did a lot of good things," he said. "There's always things you can do better. At times in the third we had a push going and we’re really rolling."

He nearly scored midway through the first period with a redirect of a Scott Hartnell pass during a power play but the puck skimmed outside the right post.

Clarkson played 16:13, had two shots, four hits and was called for boarding Dainius Zubrus in the third period.

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