Rostislav Olesz scored twice and Joel Kwiatkowski had the game-winner as the Panthers beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Saturday night.
Ed Belfour had 29 saves for Florida, which won consecutive games for the first time since December 27-29. Jozef Stumpel added an empty-netter at 19:39.
“I just put it on the net and it happened to beat him,” Kwiatkowski said. “It was a huge game for us. We have to go on a little run here, we all know that. The sooner we start the better.”
Brian Gionta and John Oduya scored for New Jersey, and Martin Brodeur stopped 28 shots as the Devils lost for just the second time in seven games.
“They took advantage of some of the mistakes we made,” Brodeur said. “We just couldn’t get it past Eddie. He played a decent game against us. He always does.”
The Panthers went ahead for the first time on Kwiatkowski’s goal at 17:22 of the second. His shot from the high slot beat Brodeur and gave Florida a 3-2 lead.
Oduya was credited with a goal after his shot went off the stick of Panthers defenceman Ruslan Salei and past Belfour to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead at 2:25.
Florida tied the score at two about 90 seconds later on Olesz’s second goal. Stumpel passed from the right circle back to Olesz, who sent a wrist shot from the left circle past Brodeur on the glove side.
“It’s good playing with Stumpel, I just go into the offensive zone and find free space and wait for the puck,” Olesz said. “I’m just happy we won the game and have two points.”
It was the second time the Panthers cane from behind to tie the score.
“There were a few too many defensive breakdowns,” Devils coach Claude Julien said. “Some nights you don’t get the breaks you want and this was one of those nights.”
The Devils took a 1-0 lead 4:34 into the game. Belfour blocked a shot by Gionta but the puck bounced off his glove and went up and over his left shoulder and into the net.
Florida tied the score on Olesz’s power-play goal at 9:28. Stumpel took the puck behind the net and passed it out to Salei in the slot. His slap shot was blocked but bounced off Olesz’s chest and went across the goal.
“It was nice to come back quickly on them,” Florida coach Jacques Martin said. “It was a big win for us and we’ve got to put some wins together.”
Notes: Brodeur (30-14-4) and Belfour (12-9-5) are the top two active goalies in the league. Brodeur has 476 wins and Belfour is at 469. Both trail only Patrick Roy (551) on the all-time list. … Panthers F Todd Bertuzzi practised with the team Friday. He hopes to return from back surgery in mid-February. … Former Ottawa GM Randy Sexton, hired as the new Panthers assistant general manager on Friday, attended the game.