NEWARK, N.J. – Martin Brodeur took his latest 30-win season in perfect stride. After all, he’s hit the mark an NHL-record 12 straight seasons.
“It’s one of the things I set for myself,” he said after the New Jersey Devils’ 3-2 overtime victory against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night. “Thirty games at the end of the year is not a big number, but not that many goalies do it in consecutive years, so it’s nice. Now I’ll look forward to try to hit 35 next.”
If the Devils keep going as they have lately, he might not have to wait long.
Brian Gionta snapped out of a 13-game goal-less drought when he swept a rebound past Martin Gerber 2:14 into overtime.
Gionta’s drive was blocked in front, and Jamie Langenbrunner put a rebound off Gerber’s right pad. Gionta got the puck again and scored his 14th goal for the Devils, who won their second straight at home after a 2-4 skid there.
“It’s huge for us,” said Gionta, who hadn’t scored since Jan. 10. “We battled hard most of the night and made some good things happen.”
New Jersey moved within one point of Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh and five behind the Senators, the top team in the East. The Devils will play at Ottawa on Saturday.
“We’re happy about the way we played,” said Brodeur, who started his 16th straight game and made 23 saves. “It’s nice to win against the best team, but it’s the way we competed against them.
“They scored some momentum goals, but it didn’t matter. We stuck to our game plan.”
Langenbrunner and Karel Rachunek also scored for the Devils, and Patrik Elias had three assists.
The Devils were 0-for-6 on the power play and killed off Ottawa’s four advantages, including a penalty against Gionta with 5:46 left in regulation.
“Over the last little while, we’ve played against the good teams and played well,” Langenbrunner said. “We’re gaining confidence.”
Luke Richardson, who came in with only six points this season, tied a career high with two on a goal and assist. Randy Robitaille also scored for the Senators, who have dropped five of seven (2-4-1).
“It’s good to hit a bump here and there to find out what it really takes to win,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said.
One night after Ottawa’s potent top line of Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza went pointless in a 5-1 home loss to Buffalo, coach John Paddock shook up the trio by putting Alfredsson with Mike Fisher and newly acquired Cory Stillman, and moving up Dean McAmmond.
It paid off when Spezza and McAmmond set up Richardson’s goal.
Richardson scored his first goal in 26 games, dating to Dec. 18, when his shot struck Devils forward David Clarkson, took a hop, and caromed past Brodeur 5:25 in.
It was the second this season for Richardson, a defenceman who has 35 NHL goals in 1,395 games over 20 years.
John Madden was stopped on a short-handed breakaway with 30 seconds left in the first period, and Langenbrunner topped him with a short-handed goal in the middle frame.
Langenbrunner blocked Andrej Meszaros’ shot at the New Jersey blue line, and Elias raced with the puck. The New Jersey captain loaded up a slap shot at the left circle and ripped a drive past Gerber to tie it at 6:12 on Ottawa’s second power play.
New Jersey netted the go-ahead goal 1:52 later, during 4-on-4 play. Just 17 seconds after a Devils power play was thwarted 8 seconds in, Elias sparked another scoring chance.
“We’ve got to be patient and disciplined,” Richardson said. “We might have taken a few penalties that tired us out. When you get to 4-on-4, even more so. They always look for that scrambley breakdown and jump on it.”
New Senators defenceman Mike Commodore, playing his second game since Monday’s trade with Carolina brought him and Stillman to Ottawa, was hassled by Elias behind the net and coughed up the puck. Zach Parise got it and sent a pass to the slot where a driving Rachunek one-timed a drive by Gerber.
Brodeur, who passed Ed Belfour into third place on the NHL career minutes played list among goalies, temporarily kept the Devils in front by denying Chris Kelly on consecutive attempts with his glove.
Less than 2 minutes later, Robitaille put a shot in the top-right corner, making it 2-2 with 4:31 left in the second. It was Robitaille’s 10th of the season and second in two nights.
Gerber got back in the net after dressing as Ray Emery’s backup the previous three games. Emery had posted consecutive wins before allowing four goals in the third period of Ottawa’s 5-1 home loss to Buffalo on Tuesday.
Gerber gave up seven goals on 47 shots in his previous two starts – both losses.
“It felt good to get some ice under my feet,” he said. “It was a tough first few minutes to get things going. After a while, I felt OK.”
Notes: Richardson had a career-high two assists and two points against the Devils on Dec. 16, 2000. … Senators are 7-4-2 in second of back-to-back games. … Rachunek has four goals this season, two in three games.