BUFFALO, N.Y. – With every save he makes, Martin Brodeur is feeling like his old self.
Brodeur stopped 29 shots, Patrik Elias had a goal and assist, and Ilya Kovalchuk scored in his return from a groin injury in the New Jersey Devils’ 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
Playing in his fourth game since a shoulder injury forced him to miss six, Brodeur’s best save came with six minutes left in the second period when he snagged Jason Pominville’s shot from point-blank range with his glove.
Brodeur has allowed 10 goals since his return.
“The more I play, the more comfortable I feel going all out for certain saves,” he said after his record 628th NHL regular-season win. “Near the end of the game a guy came around for a wraparound, and I swung my stick. That’s the first time since my injury that I did it. I didn’t think about it, and it didn’t hurt, so I was like, ‘All right, this is good.’ So now it’s just one more little thing for me. It’s a process.”
Brodeur stymied the Sabres for most of the night with his patented acrobatic saves. It also didn’t hurt that his team set a season high for goals a day after netting three in a loss at Boston.
“Hopefully it’s something that we can keep going,” said captain Zach Parise, who started the scoring with a short-handed goal just two minutes in. “We’re doing things a lot more aggressively, which I think in the long run is going to help us produce more goals and give us more chances.”
But if that fails, they can always rely on Brodeur.
“He was our best player,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “When your goaltender is your best player like Marty was, and like he’s been for New Jersey on a lot of nights over the years, there’s a comfort level.”
Mark Fayne, and David Clarkson also scored for the Devils (9-7-1), who won for the second time in three games.
The Devils struck first with a pair of goals within the first 5:21. After Parise scored, Kovalchuk ended a seven-game goal drought with a power-play goal just over three minutes later.
“We knew we needed a strong start, because we knew (Buffalo) always starts really good,” said Kovalchuk, who missed five games with his injury.
Tyler Myers scored twice after a one-game benching, Jordan Leopold added a goal, and Jhonas Enroth allowed five goals on 19 shots. He was pulled in the third period for Buffalo (11-7), which had a three-game, home-winning streak snapped.
It was the second straight game that the Sabres fell behind by two goals. They were down 2-0 at Montreal on Monday before rallying for a 3-2 shootout win.
“We can’t keep getting down on teams like that,” Myers said. “It’s going to be too hard to come back every single game.”
Myers was also involved in a collision with Devils forward Dainius Zubrus in the second period. With the puck entering the Buffalo zone along the right boards, Myers delivered a hard check on Zubrus, who was reaching for the puck. Myers’ right arm connected with Zubrus’ head, causing Zubrus to stay on the ice for a couple of minutes.
Zubrus didn’t leave the game, and Myers didn’t receive a penalty. After the game, Zubrus said he felt fine, but DeBoer wasn’t happy with the play.
“I didn’t like the look of it,” DeBoer said. “It looked to me like one of the head shots they are trying to get out of the game.”
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff saw it differently.
“If you want to play physical, and the guy’s stretched out and bent over, sometimes bad things can happen,” he said.
Enroth made his second straight start in goal for the injured Ryan Miller, who sustained a concussion against Boston on Saturday. Enroth lost in regulation for the first time in 15 decisions (13-1-1).
He was yanked with 9:33 left in the third period and replaced by Drew MacIntyre, who made two saves.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Enroth said. “I’m very frustrated. A real bad game from my side.”
Elias extended New Jersey’s lead to 4-1 with a goal three minutes into the third before Myers scored his second of the game at 7:35.
Clarkson restored New Jersey’s three-goal edge just49 seconds later on a breakaway.
Leopold capped the scoring with 4:53 remaining to make it 5-3.
Up by two goals after the first period, the Devils stretched their lead to 3-1 at 8:36 of the second when Fayne wristed in a shot from the right point that got through a screen.
The Sabres cut the deficit to 2-1 when Myers scored a power-play goal with 64 seconds left in the first.
NOTES: Zubrus played in his 1,000th NHL game. … Brodeur played in his seventh game of the season, and first on the road. He earned his 37th NHL assist on Kovalchuk’s goal. … Buffalo LW Cody McCormick missed his first game with an undisclosed injury. He was replaced by RW Corey Tropp, who was recalled from Rochester of the AHL earlier Wednesday. … Myers’ goal was his first since March 1, a span of 36 regular-season games. … Enroth’s previous regulation loss came against Pittsburgh on Nov. 24, 2010.