Patrik Elias knew the first goal was a just a matter of time.
After missing the first 13 games because of a groin injury, Elias had been playing his way back into shape over the previous seven games. The long-awaited goal was the winner as the New Jersey Devils beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1 on Wednesday night.
“I’m starting to feel OK to play the way I can,” Elias said. “This is a good sign. I’m starting to make the plays and I’m feeling more comfortable. I’m getting more shots, more often. Hopefully with that I’ll get more opportunities.”
Niclas Bergfors and Jamie Langenbrunner also scored, Martin Brodeur made 24 saves, and Andy Greene had two assists to help the Devils end a three-game losing streak.
Greene is looking forward to Elias getting back in the scoring groove.
“It’s huge,” Greene said. “He’s a big part of this team. We need it and you could see every game he is getting better and better. Hopefully, it won’t be long until he’s back to where he needs to be.”
Milan Michalek scored for the Senators, who had won four in a row – all at home.
A lucky bounce played a key role on Bergfors’ goal at 7:58 of the first period. Greene fired the puck into the Ottawa zone where it took a favourable carom off the end-zone glass, angling right to the slot where Bergfors deposited it behind Brian Elliott.
“That’s why you throw it up on the glass,” Greene said. “You never know what’s going to happen. We were just trying to get our forecheck going and it wound up right in the slot.”
Elliott never expected it to land right in front of him.
“It just seemed to work out for them, having it bounce off the glass like that and they have three guys in front,” Elliott said. “It was a case of bad luck. I don’t know if that was planned. It’s something we’ll learn from when we come back here.”
Michalek got his team-leading 11th goal for Ottawa at 12:34 to tie it 1-1. Jesse Winchester fired a shot from the left point that Michalek tipped past Brodeur.
The Devils reclaimed the lead at 2-1 when Elias scored with 1:26 left in the second.
Greene picked up his second assist with a wrist shot from the right point that Elias deflected for the 296th of his career.
Then it was up to Brodeur to preserve the lead. He has a solid third period, denying Chris Kelly’s backhander and turning away Jarkko Ruutu’s bid from just outside out the crease.
Ottawa’s hopes for a comeback were snuffed out when Ruutu picked up a tripping penalty with 2:42 left. Langenbrunner then sealed the win with an empty-net goal.
NOTES: After playing 15 of their 21 games at home, the Senators started a stretch in which they play seven of eight on the road. … C Mike Fisher, who scored the overtime winner Monday in Ottawa’s 4-3 win over Washington, missed the game with an upper-body injury. He joined starting goaltender Pascal Leclaire (broken cheekbone) as key Senators on the sidelines. Senators RW Alex Kovalev missed a third straight game, having returned to Russia following the death of his mother-in-law. Ottawa called up Mike Brodeur, a distant relative of the New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, to backup Elliott. … The Devils’ lengthy injury list includes C Rob Niedermayer (upper body, D Paul Martin (broken arm), D Johnny Oduya (lower body), C Dainius Zubrus (fractured knee cap) and LW Jay Pandolfo (shoulder). New Jersey assigned LW Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond to Lowell (AHL). … Sherry Ross became the first female broadcaster to provide play-by-play for a full NHL game. Ross, normally the Devils’ radio colour analyst, filled in for Matt Loughlin who missed the game due to a death in the family.