BUFFALO, N.Y. – The New Jersey Devils are discovering how good they can be without top goalie Martin Brodeur.
David Clarkson had a goal and an assist, and five New Jersey players scored in the Devils’ 5-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night. “We’re gaining confidence and learning a lot about each other,” said captain Jamie Langenbrunner, who had two assists. “We’re proving to ourselves as well as the rest of the league that we have a good team, and not just Marty carrying us. I think it can be huge for us later on in the year.”
Travis Zajac, Zach Parise, Bryce Salvador and Brian Rolston added goals for New Jersey, which snapped a two-game losing streak and won for the 10th time in 13 games (10-2-1). Scott Clemmensen made 23 saves and earned his ninth win in 11 starts.
“It’s typical Devils fashion. We’re not very exciting to watch, and maybe our team goes unnoticed a little bit, which is fine with us,” said Clemmensen, who wrested the No. 1 goalie spot away from Kevin Weekes after Brodeur tore his biceps in early November. “It’s an entire team effort.”
Clarkson provides a perfect example of that. He had only nine points in 28 games before Wednesday, but his sixth goal of the season scored six minutes into the third period proved to be the winner.
He took the puck away along the right boards from Nathan Paetsch, skated toward the net, and made a move on goalie Ryan Miller before deftly slipping a shot between Miller’s pads.
Clarkson then assisted on Rolston’s goal 3 1/2 minutes later to make it 5-2 with 10:29 to go.
“To be in the lineup, I have to play hard and go to the net hard to create trouble,” Clarkson said. “We’re a deep lineup with a lot of guys that can do a lot.”
New Jersey’s Patrik Elias had two assists to extend his point streak to eight games.
The Devils played the entire third period with only five defencemen after Salvador sustained an upper body injury late in the second period.
Drew Stafford, Patrick Kaleta and Paul Gaustad scored for the Sabres, who lost for the second time in six games. Miller finished with 25 saves.
“We tried to play a lazy game,” Buffalo defenceman Jaroslav Spacek said. “We didn’t have energy to backcheck and that’s why they got their chances. We’d better start to trust each other.”
Gaustad cut the Sabres’ deficit to two just 12 seconds after Rolston’s goal, slamming in a rebound from the slot.
“We need to simplify our game,” Gaustad said. “We stick to our game of hard hockey, we’re a tough team to beat. We made mistakes we shouldn’t have.”
Zajac scored just 1:36 into the game to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. After Miller stopped Mike Mottau’s shot, Zajac wristed in the rebound from the slot.
Stafford tied it just over five minutes later, redirecting Clarke MacArthur’s pass from the outer edge of the left circle.
New Jersey regained its one-goal lead on Parise’s team-leading 18th while the Devils enjoyed a two-man advantage. Parked to the left of Miller, Parise had his initial shot stopped before putting in the rebound at 11:44 of the first.
Salvador made it 3-1 at 10:52 of the second period after his shot from the middle of the blue-line deflected off Gaustad’s skate in the slot.
Kaleta cut it to 3-2 with his first of the season just 18 seconds later. He redirected Daniel Paille’s pass from the left circle.
“We dug ourselves a hole early, and when you get behind on that team it obviously makes it even tougher,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
Notes: The Sabres played without captain Craig Rivet (shoulder) and rookie forward Nathan Gerbe (upper body). … Buffalo C Derek Roy stretched his point streak to seven games with an assist on Stafford’s goal. … Kaleta returned after missing seven games with a head-neck injury. … Elias has 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 14 games. … New Jersey had lost three straight games against Buffalo.