NEWARK, N.J. – The New Jersey Devils signed Brian Rolston to quarterback the power play. The move is paying off now.
Back up to speed after an ankle injury, Rolston scored a power-play goal 1:43 into overtime to give the Devils a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.
Rolston’s winner came on a slapshot from about 40 feet with Senators defenceman Brian Lee and Devils forward Brian Gionta standing in front of goalie Alex Auld.
“It’s been a bit of a struggle coming back from my ankle,” Rolston said. “It was just a 4-on-3 situation and I just pulled it to the middle. Gio had a good screen in front and I got off a good shot. There wasn’t much complicated about it.”
Auld didn’t have much of a chance.
“I did see the shot but then I lost it along the way,” said Auld, who made 31 saves. “It was kind of a weird play. It still hit me in the blocker or the arm and sort of bounced down. I felt it hit off the back of my feet. I kind of knocked it in trying to close it up.”
Rolston has five goals in his last 10 games and six overall in 20 games this season, his first with New Jersey since he was trade to Colorado in November 1999.
Jamie Langenbrunner forced the overtime for New Jersey with a power-play goal with 3:40 left in regulation. Defenceman Johnny Oduya got the primary assists on both goals. Dainius Zubrus also scored twice, and Scott Clemmensen made 17 saves to help New Jersey win for the fourth time in five games and the seventh in 10.
“It was a bit of a sluggish game,” said Rolston, who missed 18 games because of a high ankle sprain. “We weren’t on top of our game. It seems like recently, we’ve had a way of pulling these games out. It shows the character of the hockey team.”
Nick Foligno, Brendan Bell and Chris Kelly scored for Ottawa, 3-8-2 in its last 13 games. The Senators are 1-4-1 on their eight-game trip while the world junior tournament is in Ottawa.
“It’s the story of the Devils,” Auld said. “Any time you make a little mistake or take an untimely penalty they jump on it. That’s what they are all about. This one is obviously tough. We had the lead three times and they kept battling back.”
Clemmensen is 15-6-1 since taking over for the injured Martin Brodeur as the No. 1 goaltender and he could tell the Devils were not at their sharpest.
“We were right there the whole game,” Clemmensen said. “But we just lacked that extra push to get us into high gear. We couldn’t find it tonight. You can’t play 82 perfect games all year, but you just hope in the ugly ones you get points here and there.”
The Senators took one-goal leads three times.
Langenbrunner tied it for the last time after the Senators seemed to clear the puck out of their zone with New Jersey on a power play.
Langenbrunner took a pass from Oduya and beat Auld with a hard shot on which Ottawa defenceman Jason Smith might have either screened his goalie or touched the puck. The defenceman slammed his stick to the ice after the play.
Kelly had given Ottawa a 3-2 at 7:14 of the third period with a shot in close after being set up by some nice work behind the net by Jesse Winchester and Antoine Vermette, who also set up Foligno’s opening goal.
The Senators, who came into the game with a NHL-low 84 goals, twice took one-goal leads on power plays, only to see Zubrus tie the game with goals in close.
Zubrus even had a hand in the Ottawa’s opener at 2:10. He was sent off 15 seconds after the opening faceoff for hooking and Foligno tallied his sixth goal of the season from in close with five seconds left on the penalty.
Zubrus tied it in the final minute of the first period putting the rebound of a Gionta shot past Auld. Patrik Elias made a nice cross-ice pass to set up Gionta’s shot although it looked like the Devils forward was close to be offside.
Bell put the Senators ahead 2-1 at 3:50 of the second period with the help of a lucky bounce. Jason Spezza sent a pass from just behind the goal-line that deflected off defenceman Bryce Salvador, forcing Clemmensen to make a save. Bell put the rebound into an open net.
Zubrus got his 10th goal of the season a little more than seven minutes later after play seemed to pause for a second with the puck under Gionta in front of the Ottawa net. The Devils got control and Gionta sent a cross-ice pass to Elias who found Zubrus alone in front for an easy redirection into an empty net.
Notes: Both of Bell’s goals this season have been on the power play. … Senators defenceman Jason Smith was playing against one of his old teams for the third straight game – Edmonton, Toronto and New Jersey. … The Devils are 5-1 in overtime games.