SUNRISE, Fla. – Once they went to a shootout, Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils had plenty of reason to feel confident.
Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias scored in the shootout and Brodeur stopped both Florida Panthers attempts, lifting the Devils to a 3-2 victory Tuesday night that made them 7-1 in shootouts.
“It’s a big win for us, a big road trip,” Brodeur said. “I think we showed a lot of character. We played pretty good. We deserved it.”
Elias and Zach Parise had the New Jersey goals in regulation. Brodeur made 24 saves to help the Devils rally from a two-goal deficit for their fourth win in five games.
Kris Versteeg scored twice for Florida, which dropped its third straight and fell to 1-4 in shootouts. Jose Theodore stopped 32 shots.
“There was so much interference, you expect (ex-Devils defenceman) Kenny Daneyko to jump over the boards,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “It was like a game from the ’80s, there was so much interference out there. It made for tough sledding.”
Devils coach Peter DeBoer, however, enjoyed what he saw.
“I’m happy we got the two points. I think we deserved them,” said DeBoer, who coached the Panthers the past three seasons. “But even if we hadn’t, I like the way we played.”
Parise tied it 2-2 at 7:40 of the third period. Henrik Tallinder’s slap shot from straight on just inside the blue line went wide of the net to Theodore’s right. The puck ricocheted off the end boards and went right to Parise, who slammed it in for his 10th goal.
Versteeg’s short-handed breakaway goal at 7:29 of the second gave Florida a 2-0 lead.
Shortly after a faceoff at centre ice, Versteeg stole the puck from Tallinder and skated in alone on Brodeur before firing a shot high past the goalie’s glove side.
Just 56 seconds after Versteeg’s second goal, Elias made it 2-1.
Kovalchuk had the puck behind the Devils’ net and sent a pass to Parise in the left circle. Parise drew several players toward him before passing to Elias at the right side of the net for his 10th goal.
“We played really solid and we were aggressive,” Elias said. “When you do that, it’s funny how it works sometimes, and you end up on the winning side.”
Adam Larsson’s turnover deep in the New Jersey zone led to Versteeg’s goal that gave Florida a 1-0 lead at 15:10 of the first period.
Larsson was in the right corner when he attempted a weak backhand pass. Stephen Weiss intercepted in the circle and skated in on Brodeur. The Florida forward deked as he skated across the front of the net, causing Brodeur to hit the ice. Weiss then sent a pass back to Versteeg, who scored his team-leading 14th goal.
New Jersey’s Petr Sykora missed an opportunity to score the decisive goal in the final seconds of regulation when, standing just outside the crease, he redirected a pass from Mark Fayne wide of an open net.
“We were lucky—we gave up a pretty good opportunity,” Florida defenceman Ed Jovanovski said. “We’ll put the point in the bank, but we know as a team we could be a lot better.”
NOTES: It was the second meeting of the season for these teams, both in Florida. The Panthers overcame a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 on Nov. 21. … Florida’s four-game homestand continues against Calgary on Friday, Carolina on Sunday and Phoenix next Tuesday. … New Jersey’s NHL-leading penalty-killing unit was needed only once, successfully killing Dainius Zubrus’ tripping penalty midway through the third period. … The Devils improved to 12-5-0 in one-goal games. It was their fifth straight one-goal game.