For much of the New Jersey Devils season, their offense has been abysmal.
Coming into today's game against the New York Islanders, the Devils only scored 85 goals and averaged a measly 1.93 goals-per-game.
But if today's game was any indication, the Devils defense is finally flexing its muscle. New Jersey lit the lamp five times to defeat the Islanders, 5-2, today at Nassau Coliseum.
Rod Pelley and Dainius Zubrus scored 54 seconds apart to clinch the Devils victory.
Ahead 3-2, Pelley pushed the Devils lead to 4-2 at 16:59 of the second period. Mark Fraser fired a shot on net, and Pelley pushed the rebound past Islanders' goalie Kevin Poulin for his third goal of the season.
Dainius Zubrus extended the lead to three goals 54 seconds later. Brian Rolston fired a shot from the left circle that deflected off of Patrik Elias' skate and right to Zubrus' stick. The Devils' center fired a shot past Poulin for his seventh goal of the season.
Even with a comfortable lead, the Islanders continued to threaten. But a disallowed goal submarined their efforts.
With 1:29 seconds left in the second period, P.A. Parenteau appeared to cut the Devils lead to 5-3 when he fired a shot past a down-and-out Martin Brodeur. But official Bill McCreary ruled that Michael Grabner made incidental contact with Brodeur, knocking down the Devils' goalie. Despite the fact that Devils' defenseman Mark Fayne pushed Grabner into Brodeur, the officials disallowed the goal.
After that, the Islanders wouldn't score again.
The Devils jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period.
Vladimir Zharkov opened the scoring with his first career goal 4:25 into the game. Jason Arnott sent a pass from the right corner to Mattias Tedenby, and the rookie forward drove the net. His shot beat Poulin, but deflected off the goalpost and trickled into the crease. Zharkov came from behind the net and put a backhanded shot in the net for the goal.
Zharkov was excited to score the goal, which took 59 games to happen.
"For sure I enjoyed it," the rookie told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "I enjoyed it because it was a huge game for us."
Head coach Jacques Lemaire was happy for the rookie.
"It's like winning the lottery," Lemaire told Gulitti. "It's really good. It's good because he's getting chances and hasn't found the net. Tonight it's great that he gets a goal. He'll know how it feels to score goals and maybe he'll score more."
Ilya Kovalchuk extended the lead to 2-0 with a powerplay goal 57 seconds later. With Jack Hillen in the penalty box for hooking, Andy Greene sent a pass to Kovalchuk in the left circle. The Devils' left-winger one-timed the puck past Poulin for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.
The goal was Kovalchuk's third in as many games.
Tedenby put the Devils ahead, 3-0, at 6:40 of the second period. After Fraser's point shot was deflected, Tedenby took control of the puck in the left circle. The right-winger deked around Andrew MacDonald, and faked a shot from the slot. With Poulin frozen, Tedenby backhanded the puck past the Isles' goalie for his fifth goal of the season.
"I think it hit someone in the skates there," Tedenby said to Gulitti. "I faked a shot and went backhand. I tried to get it up high. It felt very good."
"What a goal," Brodeur said to Gulitti. "He showed some skill on that goal, that's for sure."
The Islanders answered back in the period, scoring two quick goals to pull within one.
Parenteau put the Isles on the board, cutting the Devils lead to 3-1 at 10:56 of the period. Blake Comeau chipped a puck past Fraser, creating a 3-on-1 near the Devils goal. Comeau fed Parenteau with a pass, and the Islanders' center fired it past Brodeur for his 11th goal of the season.
Grabner pulled the Islanders within one 54 seconds later. Grabner victimized Fraser, getting behind him in the Devils' zone. He took a Josh Bailey pass and beat Brodeur to the stick side for his 11th goal of the season.
Brodeur finished with 27 saves. Poulin stopped 22 shots.
The five-goal output followed a recent trend of offensive success for the Devils. In their past four games, the team has scored 18 goals - their most in any four game span this season.
With the win, the Devils earned seven of eight points from their last four games. That's the best point total in any four game stretch this season, and the offense's revival is one of several reasons for the recent turnaround.
Head coach Jacques Lemaire was pleased with the offense's recent performance.
"Even myself I haven't seen this a lot," Lemaire told Gulitti. "You know what? I like it."
Jason Arnott earned his 500th career assist on Pelley's goal...The first period saw 30 combined penalty minutes, including two fights...Rick DiPietro, who did not play tonight, was a healthy scratch and not injured...Milan Jurcina left the game during the second period and did not return