The New Jersey Devils (11-29-2) have been a model of offensive futility this season.
The Devils' 78 goals scored are by far the lowest in the league. During their four game losing streak, New Jersey was outscored, 14-6.
New Jersey's offense broke out of a season-long slump today, scoring five goals in the third period to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning (25-13-5), 6-3, at the Prudential Center.
Down 2-1 in the third period, the Devils reeled off three straight goals to put the Lightning away.
David Clarkson tied the game, 2-2, with a powerplay goal at 4:14 of the period. Ilya Kovalchuk fed Clarkson in the slot, and the Devils right-winger fired a shot past the glove of Dan Ellis for his seventh goal of the season and second of the game.
Jason Arnott gave the Devils a 3-2 lead at 7:52 of the final period. Henrik Tallinder fired a shot from the left circle that deflected off of Arnott's thigh and past Ellis for Arnott's 10th goal of the season.
"I was trying to fire it and I misfired it," Tallinder told the Associated Press. "It hit Arnie, it was just a lucky bounce. Finally, it went our way this time."
Dainius Zubrus continued the scoring, pushing the lead to 4-2 at 14:06 of the period. Patrik Elias passed the puck to the front of the net, and Zubrus backhanded a shot past the pad of Ellis for his sixth goal of the season.
With the Lightning empty, Elias extended the lead to 5-2. Brian Rolston sent a pass to Elias in the neutral zone, and the Devils' center carried it into the offensive zone. He deked around a Lightning defender and shot it into the empty net for his ninth goal of the season.
Dominic Moore cut the lead to 5-3 at 19:08 of the third period. Adam Hall fired a shot from the point that was blocked down into the slot. Moore fell to the ice and sent a backhanded shot past Martin Brodeur for his seventh goal of the season.
Nick Palmieri would add a second empty-net goal to put the Devils ahead, 6-3. Brodeur grabbed a shot and tried to shoot the puck into the open net. Kovalchuk grabbed the loose puck at the red line and left the puck for Palmieri. The Devils' rookie fired the puck into the net for his first career NHL goal.
Brodeur admitted he was trying to score a goal.
"I'm embarassed," he told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "I barely got it to the red line. I was trying. That's the worst part."
Palmieri didn't mind his first goal coming with an empty net.
"I don't think so," the Devils' rookie told Gulitti. "It was one of those plays where it was there, you might as well put it in."
It was the second time this season the Devils scored two empty net goals. The first came in a 5-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on November 22.
The offensive outburst was significant for several reasons. It was the most goals scored by the Devils in both a period and game this season. It also snapped a streak of 20 straight games where the Devils failed to score three or more goals.
After the first period, it seemed like a replay of the Devils last four losses. Teddy Purcell opened the scoring, capitalizing on a lucky bounce at 2:36 of the opening period. Adam Mair tried to clear a loose puck from the front of the net, but it deflected off of Mattias Ritola and right to Purcell. The Lightning right-winger tapped the puck past a diving Brodeur for his seventh goal of the season.
Clarkson tied the game, 1-1, at 5:55 of the period. Tim Sestito passed the puck to Clarkson, who entered the Lightning zone on a breakaway. The right-winger moved the puck from his forehand to the backhand and shot the puck over a sprawling Ellis for his sixth goal of the season.
Ryan Malone put the Lightning back on top, 2-1, with a powerplay goal at 16:01 of the period. Malone fired a shot from the goal line that found its way through Brodeur's pads and into the net for his 11th of the season.
Several Devils felt relief after today's win.
"It's enough with losses and saying 'We did this good and we did that good," Clarkson told Gulitti. "It's about time that we did good things and did get the win. The game of hockey is all about winning. That's what it's about. So, tonight we played well from Marty making some huge saves to keep us in it to us playing well in our zone and creating a lot of offense."
"It's nice to get some goals," Brodeur said to Gulitti. "We definitely played with a lot of emotion in the third period and that's something that we have been lacking and it paid off."
Brodeur stopped 33 shots tonight to break a personal six-game losing streak.
"I made some good saves," he told Gulitti. "I'd like to get maybe two out of three goals back. One (by Dominic Moore) was a bad rebound and the other one the guy (Ryan Malone) just stuffed it in. The other one (Teddy Purcell) was a little lucky early on, but I made the saves that made a big difference in this hockey game. When you get some offensive support, mistakes are not (going to hurt you as much)."
After their win, Lemaire's expression showed the relief off the frustrated Devils.
"I don't have a smile every day," Lemaire told Gulitti. "It's like Christmas. It's not every day."
The Devils' powerplay entered the game 1-for-24 in their last eight games...Anton Volchenkov missed tonight's game because of the death of his father. Mark Fayne was recalled from Albany of the AHL and was in the lineup...The Devils and Lightning will finish the home-and-home series Friday night in Tampa Bay.