For the second time in nine days, the last-place Ottawa Senators cooled off the red-hot New Jersey Devils.
Curtis McElhinney stopped 33 shots as the Senators beat the Devils 3-1 at Scotiabank Place on Thursday night. It was only the fourth regulation loss in 29 second-half games for the Devils -- and two have come against the Senators, who won 2-1 in New Jersey last Tuesday.
"I think it's definitely two disappointing losses against these guys," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "You've got to give them credit. They played really well. Their goalie was outstanding and he was the difference why we didn't come out of this with points."
The loss kept New Jersey six points behind eighth-place Buffalo. New Jersey is 23-4-2 since the midpoint of the season, but two of the regulation losses have come against Ottawa. The Senators are the "2" in New Jersey's 7-2-0 surge in the last nine games.
"I've been telling you guys all the time, the whole time how tough it is to win games because teams are good," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "You hit a good goalie one night and you don't win. That's it."
McElhinney, a career backup in Calgary, Anaheim and now playing behind Craig Anderson in Ottawa, was especially thrilled to beat Brodeur.
"It's a lot of fun," McElhinney said. "It's a good challenge. I saw (Craig Anderson) do it last week in New Jersey. To play against a desperate team trying to make the playoffs was a nice win for us."
Chris Neil scored what proved to be the game-winner 55 seconds into the third period, swatting at the airborne rebound of Erik Karlsson's shot and deflecting it past Martin Brodeur for a 2-0 lead.
Brian Rolston got one with by scoring a power-play goal at 5:52, but the Devils couldn't get another puck past McElhinney. He denied Ilya Kovalchuk on a breakaway late in regulation before Neil sealed it with an empty-netter -- making the first time since Feb. 4 that the Devils have allowed more than two goals in a game.
"(McElhinney) presents himself big. It's just his structure and his positional play," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. "To me, when you are playing like that, and you do a good job of clearing rebounds and keeping things to the perimeter, it's tough to beat.
"He was patient. That's the most important thing. Look at Kovalchuk's breakaway -- that was just a patient thing. He outwaited him and didn't give him a whole lot to shoot at."
Ottawa's Ryan Shannon opened the scoring with 57.8 seconds left in the opening period, tipping Jason Spezza's shot behind Brodeur during a power play.
The second period belonged to the goaltenders. Brodeur made a big save on Spezza early in the period and a glove save on Marek Svatos later. McElhinney kept the Devils off the board with an excellent stick save on Travis Zajac, and later stopped Dainius Zubrus from alone in front. He also made five saves during a power play
"I felt that we played decent," Lemaire said. "We could have won the game. The goalie was really good. We had our chances. We just didn't score."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report