NEWARK, N.J. – Perhaps it was the wholesale rearranging of stalls in the locker room that broke the mounting tension. Maybe it was the spectacular goal by the defenceman humorously called “Johnny Orr” that restored some needed confidence.
Whatever the reason, the New Jersey Devils broke out in a big way and routed the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 on Saturday night. Paul Martin scored two goals in an NHL game for the first time and fellow defencemen Colin White and Johnny Oduya also scored.
Dainius Zubrus and Jay Pandolfo connected, too, and Martin Brodeur made 22 saves as the Devils ended a two-game losing streak. New Jersey won for only the fourth time in 10 home games.
“The locker room before the game was a lot livelier than it’s been in a while,” captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “You could tell we were focused and ready to go.”
It could have stemmed from a change in routine as players found their equipment hanging in unfamiliar stalls when they reported to the Prudential Center. The shuffle was initiated by coach Brent Sutter.
“We thought we would give it a shot and change things up a little bit,” Sutter said.
For one night, at least, it worked.
White opened the scoring at 3:08 with a slap shot from the left point. After a stretch of 125 games without a goal, White has produced two in five games.
The Devils, in a reversal of recent form, went up by two goals on Martin’s power-play tally at 5:53. In each of the previous three games, New Jersey fell behind 2-0 and went 1-1-1 in that stretch.
After Keith Aucoin scored for Carolina on a goal-mouth tip at 10:35, Oduya restored the Devils’ two-goal advantage with a spectacular tally that capped an end-to-end rush. Picking up the puck behind his own net, Oduya went the length of the ice, eluding five defenders before beating Cam Ward between the pads at 15:47.
“I heard someone on the bench say Johnny Orr,” Oduya said. “It’s all good fun. You don’t get too many opportunities to make plays like that. It just kind of opened up and I skated through it.”
While Devils marvelled at the goal, the Hurricanes sagged.
“He made a nice end-to-end rush,” Ward said. “There is no way we can let him enter the zone the way that he did. It just seemed like everything was easier for the Devils.”
It marked the first time the Devils scored three consecutive goals from defencemen since Dec. 31, 1991.
Zubrus netted the Devils’ second power-play goal of the period with 2:02 left to give New Jersey a 4-1 advantage.
Martin, at 1:29, and Pandolfo, at 14:41, scored in the second as the Devils expanded their lead to 6-1. Ward was yanked after Pandolfo’s goal, surrendering six goals on 20 shots before John Grahame came on to finish.
Carolina went down meekly in the scoreless third, mustering only seven shots.
“We’ve got find a way to play with a little more confidence,” captain Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s pretty obvious we are a little uptight out there with the puck. That’s one reason we’re not generating a lot of offence.”
The Hurricanes might consider rearranging their locker room stalls. Six goals later, the Devils will tell them it can’t hurt.
Notes: The last time Devils defencemen were this productive was Oct. 31, 1984, when they scored five goals. Uli Hiemer had a hat trick, and Joe Cirella scored twice. … Sergei Brylin played in his 302nd straight game for the Devils, the fourth-longest stretch in team history. Ken Daneyko holds the club record with 388 consecutive games. … D Mike Mottau was back in action for New Jersey after being scratched for one game. It was Karel Rachunek’s turn to sit out after playing in 10 straight games. The Devils also scratched D Sheldon Brookbank and C Rod Pelley. … The Hurricanes scratched D Dennis Seidenberg and centres Matt Cullen and Chad LaRose. … Both teams played on Friday with the Devils losing 2-1 at home to Anaheim while the Hurricanes were 2-1 winners in Washington. … Brodeur made his 15th straight start while Ward stretched his consecutive string to 10.