NEWARK, NJ – Jamie Langenbrunner and Patrick Elias both scored during a shootout and Kevin Weekes stopped two out of three shots to give the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night.
Both Elias and Langenbrunner used a quick puck maneuver to get past Lightning goalie Mike Smith, which opened up the net to an easy backhanded shot for Elias and wrister for the captain.
The Devils, still reeling from the news that star goaltender Martin Brodeur will be out for the next three to four months, wanted to show the league they are not done for the season.
Weekes, in his second start replacing Brodeur, jumped in the air after stopping the puck with his chest against Tampa’s third skater, Vaclav Prospal.
Vincent Lecavalier was able to wrist a shot past Weekes during the shoot out, but Weekes was able to stop Jussi Jokinen’s backhanded shot on Tampa Bay’s second attempt.
“His hands are magic,” Weekes said of Jokinen.
But the magic Wednesday night came from the Devils’ bench.
“Today we talked about how this is an opportunity for the guys in this room to prove we’re still a great team,” said Langenbrunner.
New Jersey’s anemic offense finally broke through after 116:12 of play without a goal Wednesday night. But for every positive Devils play, the Tampa Bay Lightning had an answer.
With less than five minutes to play, Jay Pandolfo lifted a puck up over goalie Mike Smith’s head to give the Devils a 3-2 lead.
Moments later, Sheldon Brookbank took a delay of game penalty, allowing Martin St. Louis to improve the league-worst power play’s statistics with the tying goal.
Paul Ranger passed the puck along the blue line to Lecavalier, who put the puck on goal. St. Louis slid the rebound along the ice just to the right of Weekes’ leg pad, tying the game at three.
“Tonight, we played hard again,” Sutter said. “We scored the goals we needed to. Unfortunately, we took a few penalties in the last few minutes. We took one and we’re scored against in the last five minutes. It’s a tough penalty to take.”
The Devils took a time out to regroup, and put ample pressure on the Lightning goalie, but were unable to end the game in regulation.
In overtime, the elongated cheer of “Weekes” continued to crescendo with every shot saved by the goalie. In his second solid start, Weekes stopped all four shots he faced in over time and 20-23 faced in regulation.
“He played very well. He gave his team a chance to win. He was very solid,” Devils Head Coach Brent Sutter said.
New Jersey also took four overtime shots and, unable to convert, forced the shootout.
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Jokinen had an unobscured look at the goal from the left circle and got the puck past Weekes. Mark Recci and Evgeny Artyukhin assisted on the goal.
The Devils were unable to answer in the penalty-free first, but kept firing at the net.
In the second period, the Devils were awarded the first power play of the game when Gary Roberts was sent to the box for elbowing.
The Newark crowd told the home team what they thought of the power play when Anssi Salmela let the puck out of the offensive zone. Tampa Bay kept control of the puck for almost 30 seconds of the Devils power play.
New Jersey intensified its offensive pressure when David Clarkson took the puck from Dainius Zubrus along the right boards and lifted the puck over Smith’s right shoulder.
The goal, coming at 16:05 in the second, was assisted by Zubrus and Colin White.
The power play unit redeemed itself when Jokinen got called on a high stick with less than two minutes left in the period.
Elias took a pass from Zubrus and rifled it over Smith’s head to give the Devils a 2-1 lead going into the third period.
Half way into the final session, with Petr Vrana in the box for slashing, Jokinen played a give-and-go with Andrej Meszaros and ripped a one-timer over Weekes’ outstretched glove to tie the game at two.
The Devils’ defense continued to play with their signature toughness, blocking 12 shots in front of Weekes.
“I’m very appreciative of that,” Weekes said. “They sacrifice themselves, and that says a lot.”
“Our defense has played well. There’s no issues there at all. Overall it’s been pretty flawless with communication,” Sutter said about the back line adjusting to the goalie switch.
“In reality, the secret of the Devils, one of the main principals, is it’s always about the collective,” Weekes said about the team effort.
New Jersey will need their strength in numbers when they travel to Detroit for a game against the defending Stanley Cup winners Saturday.