OTTAWA - With less than a week to go in the regular season, the New Jersey Devils finally feel like they're playing playoff hockey.
Brendan Shanahan scored the shootout winner as the New Jersey Devils celebrated their Atlantic Division title with a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. After Zach Parise and Daniel Alfredsson traded goals in the first round of the shootout, Shanahan beat Senators netminder Alex Auld high to the glove side to put the Devils up for good.
Brian Gionta and Brian Rolston scored in regulation for the Devils (50-27-4) while Martin Brodeur stopped 28 shots. New Jersey had clinched the division title earlier in the evening when the Philadelphia Flyers fell 2-1 to the New York Rangers, and have now won three of their last four after going through their roughest stretch of the season last month.
"It's definitely a big win," said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. "I thought we played a really good road game."
Despite trailing early in the game, the Devils maintained their composure and rallied from behind - something they've struggled with lately.
"We went through a little adversity in the game getting down in the game, but didn't panic for once," said Brodeur. "We stayed composed."
Devils coach Brent Sutter acknowledged the team had struggled, but overall was pleased with the effort.
"We won the game and that's what we came here to do," said Sutter. "I'm looking at the positive and we did a lot of really good things here and we just have to continue to build on that."
Jarkko Ruutu and Dany Heatley scored for the Senators. Auld, making his fifth straight start, faced 32 shots.
It was the final home game of the season for Ottawa, which saw its string of 11 straight post-season appearances come to an end. The Senators went a respectable 22-13-6 at Scotiabank Place.
"We're disappointed we didn't win the shootout," said Senators coach Cory Clouston. "We definitely wanted to win that game. Not only for ourselves, but for our fans to send them home happy, but unfortunately we lost in the shootout."
The Senators finish the season with a 0-4 record against the Devils and haven't beaten New Jersey on home ice since October 8, 2007.
"We played a really great first period," said Alfredsson. "Second period we took a couple penalties and a couple breaks against us and kind of lost our composure a little bit, but we came back hard in the third."
The Senators opened the scoring four minutes into the first as Ruutu picked up Brian Lee's rebound just outside the crease and beat Brodeur over the right shoulder.
Ottawa had a number of great chances in the first period, but were unable to beat Brodeur again.
The Devils scored two goals 46 seconds apart to take the lead early in the second period.
Gionta, with his 20th of the season, beat Auld with a quick shot from the hashmarks and seconds later Rolston scored again from almost the exact same spot.
Auld was caught out of position on Rolston's goal after he struggled to get back from behind the net.
"I'm sure he'd like to have the second one back," said Clouston. "I'm not exactly sure what happened. Might have been miscommunication, but overall he played well."
Auld made a great glove save seven minutes into the third on Shanahan with the Devils on the power play to keep the Senators within one.
The sellout crowd of 20,151 voiced its displeasure midway through the third after Alfredsson was given an unsportsmanlike penalty in addition to a goaltender interference minor after bumping Brodeur.
"I don't know where that call came from," said Alfredsson. "It was a little bit of frustration."
With one minute remaining, Heatley tied the game after the Senators had missed on two previous great chances.
Notes: Ottawa was without G Pascal Leclaire (ankle), D Alexandre Picard (knee), C Cody Bass (shoulder) and D Jason Smith (knee). RW Shean Donovan was a healthy scratch. ... The Devils were without D Niclas Havelid (lower body) and G Kevin Weekes (knee), while D Jay Leach, C Bobby Holik and C Michael Rupp were healthy scratches. ... Senators D Brendan Bell played his 100th NHL game.