ANAHEIM, Calif. – Nobody had beaten the Anaheim Ducks at home all season long, and they had another late lead until Jaromir Jagr got the New Jersey Devils to overtime.
From there, the Ducks beat themselves.
Jagr scored the tying goal with 1:01 left in regulation, and the Devils ended Anaheim’s eight-game home winning streak with a 4-3 victory on Wednesday night.
Travis Zajac got credit for the winning goal at 1:58 of overtime, but the Ducks put it in their own net—a fitting finish to what coach Bruce Boudreau saw as a tentative, reactionary effort. The Devils felt they got the reward they deserved for a gritty finish in the opener of a three-game California trip.
“We knew we had to play better to give ourselves a chance, so we had to come out strong in the third period,” Zajac said. “We started to win some forecheck battles and stuck with it right to the end. We got rewarded late in the game on Jagr’s goal. It was kind of a lucky one there.”
After Jagr converted Patrik Elias’ pass from behind the net, with Martin Brodeur pulled for an extra attacker, New Jersey got even more luck on the winner.
Ben Lovejoy hit teammate Corey Perry with the puck while attempting to clear the crease, and it caromed past Jonas Hiller to end the longest season-opening home winning streak in Anaheim history.
“That’s obviously an incredibly unfortunate ending,” Lovejoy said. “That’s a game we need. We’re an incredibly desperate team, even though we’re still all right in the standings.”
With four wins in five games capped by this impressive comeback, the Devils are starting to feel better about their 8-8-5 spot in the standings.
Moments after Brodeur made an exceptional save on Mathieu Perreault’s attempt at an overtime goal, the Devils were rewarded with a gift from Lovejoy and Perry.
“It was nice to pull it off because we worked very hard and we battled,” said Brodeur, who stopped 22 shots. “When you win, you always look at these kinds of saves. Sometimes the games are ugly, and if you make one save like that, it makes the difference.”
Elias had three assists, and Marek Zidlicky and Eric Gelinas scored power-play goals in the first period after an incorrect high-sticking double minor call against Teemu Selanne.
“I think the schedule worked to our advantage tonight,” said Jagr, who scored his 689th NHL goal. “They had to travel last night, and we had one extra day of rest here. Maybe in the third period it showed. But they’re one of the best teams in the league—maybe the best team—so that’s a huge two points for us.”
Ryan Getzlaf scored the tiebreaking power-play goal, and Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the NHL-leading Ducks, who have lost five straight. Anaheim was the league’s only remaining unbeaten home team, but the Ducks are in a skid after playing a league-high 24 games this season.
Matt Beleskey also scored for the Ducks, still on top of the overall NHL standings despite going 0-3-2 in their last five. Hiller made 21 saves in just his second start in seven games.
Boudreau bemoaned his club’s soft third-period effort, a creeping problem in recent days.
“That’s all I talked about (in) the previous two games,” Boudreau said. “We played not to lose in the third period. You can’t play the game in your own zone and expect to win. … I don’t even call it a mistake (on the final goal). It was an accident. That’s the way the game was going. We missed two open nets. You knew something bad was going to happen.”
Dustin Penner had two assists for the Ducks, who stumbled home to friendly Honda Center after a winless four-game East Coast road trip. Anaheim also lost defenceman Francois Beauchemin in the second period to an upper-body injury.
“We need to respond to this,” Lovejoy said. “We’re not playing great hockey right now. We want to be an elite team in this league, and we’re not playing like it.”
Until the big finish, New Jersey got all of its offence on a break from a blown call.
Devils defenceman Andy Greene was left with a bloody mouth after a high-stick to the face, and Selanne was whistled for a double minor—but a video replay clearly showed Zidlicky hit his teammate in the face while tussling with Perreault. Selanne’s stick was on the ice.
Bonino tied it with his career-best sixth goal, and Getzlaf put the Ducks ahead with a vicious slap shot for the 12th goal of his stellar season.
NOTES: After the game, Anaheim hired former Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini as a part-time pro scout. … The NHL’s competition committee recommended video review of all high-sticking double minor penalties last spring, but the league rejected the idea in September. … The clubs met for the first time since February 2012.