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Stempniak helps Devils top Senators for third in row

by Chris Stevenson

OTTAWA -- The New Jersey Devils won in extra time for the third straight game, the latest a 5-4 shootout victory against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday.

Lee Stempniak scored the tying goal with 32 seconds left in the third period and then in the shootout to give the Devils the win.

"We didn't have our best game tonight," Stempniak said. "We got outplayed for stretches, for sure, and [goalie Cory Schneider] made some big saves. To be able to have the maturity to stick with it and come back, squeak out the point and win it in the shootout is big for us … it's good for a team, you stick with it, you play to the final buzzer and you have something to show for it."

New Jersey (3-3-1) trailed 4-2, but Adam Henrique scored with 5:50 left before Stempniak tied it. Henrique and Stempniak scored on rebounds off shots by forward Mike Cammalleri, who had three assists. Schneider made 35 saves and stopped three of four attempts in the shootout.

Stempniak, who made the Devils after a training camp tryout, has six points (two goals) in seven games.

The Senators (3-2-2) lost their third game in a row.

Jacob Josefson scored in the second round of the shootout and Stempniak in the fourth against Senators goalie Andrew Hammond, who made 28 saves in his season debut after a preseason groin injury.

"He battled. We let him down a little bit with our sloppy play," Ottawa coach Dave Cameron said of Hammond. "We weren't real sharp. There were too many opportunities given up on unforced turnovers. … That changed the momentum for a while early on and caught up to us at the end."

Senators wing Chris Neil celebrated his 900th NHL game with a Gordie Howe Hat Trick. His goal at 6:38 of the third period gave the Senators a 4-2 lead.

"Obviously it would have been nice to get the two points," Neil said. "That's the biggest thing you want. You want your team to do well. Individual success doesn't win you championships. … For me, it's more about the team. We want the team to get the two points."

Ottawa took a 3-2 lead at 2:24 of the third period when Mike Hoffman scored on a slap shot with Devils forward Stephen Gionta serving a major penalty for spearing Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki.

Neil had an assist on a second-period goal by Zach Smith that made it 2-2 and fought Devils forward Jordin Tootoo in the third period at 12:53.

Stempniak said the fight gave the Devils a lift.

"Yeah, definitely. I think the last three games, we've had someone sort of step up out of their comfort zone, maybe not so much for [Tootoo], but some other guys, and we feed off that," Stempniak said. "We're a team that's got to fight for every inch. There's not very high expectations for us, but in the room we believe we're capable of a lot more than what people expect from us."

The Devils led 2-1 after an eventful 90 seconds in the first period. Travis Zajac opened the scoring on a 5-on-3 at 5:02, Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad tied it with a shorthanded goal at 5:54, and Tootoo made it 2-1 with another power-play goal at 6:32.

It was the fourth game in a row the Devils played beyond regulation. They lost to the San Jose Sharks in a shootout Friday before overtime wins against the New York Rangers on Sunday and the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday.

Schneider said the key for the Devils has been playing it cool during the 3-on-3 that was introduced this season.

"We're just smart," he said. "I don't think we maybe have necessarily the high-end skill and talent other teams do, but we make good defensive plays, and sometimes when you break up an odd-man rush, or get a save, everybody is swinging by the net and take off the other way.

"We pick our spots well. We change early. We don't get caught out there for a minute and half, which is death in 3-on-3, guys are dying. We're just trying to have a sound strategy and we're sticking to it. Everybody is buying into it."

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