There haven't been many bounces going the New Jersey Devils way this season.
On Tuesday night, one finally did.
A fluke deflection on a Dainius Zubrus shot proved to be the game-winning goal at the Devils defeated the Ottawa Senators, 2-1, at the Prudential Center.
Zubrus' game-winner came with 5:43 left in the third period. The Devils' right-winger turned with the puck near the goal line and fired a shot toward net. Chris Neil deflected the puck, and it fluttered over Robin Lehner's shoulder and into the net for Zubrus' eighth goal of the season.
"As I turned around, I saw Patrik going to the net and I tried to get the puck to him because I thought he beat his defender," Zubrus explained to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "It was a lucky bounce, but we'll take it. If you look at the chances overall and the shots (33-16) and the way we played, I thought we still earned it."
Both Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias assisted on the goal, extending their individual point streaks to six games.
Nick Palmieri put the Devils ahead, 1-0, 35 seconds into the second period. Andy Greene took a shot from the point that deflected to the rookie right-winger. Lehner blocked Palmieri's initial shot, but the rookie lifted his rebound past the pads for his fourth goal of the season.
Patrik Elias almost made it 2-0, but fired a shot off the post at 2:35 of the period.
After that chance, Lehner shut down the Devils. The rookie goalie stopped 15 of 16 shots in the second period, denying the Devils' multiple scoring chances. He used his right pad to deny Tim Sestito at 11:57 of the period, then dove across the crease to deny Rod Pelley shortly after.
Penalties cost the Devils the lead in the middle period.
Alexei Kovalev's 5-on-3 powerplay goal tied the game, 1-1, at 5:09 of the second period. With both Brian Rolston and Dainius Zubrus in the box, Daniel Alfredsson held the puck along the side boards. His cross-ice pass found Kovalev alone in front, and the right-winger tapped it past Martin Brodeur for his ninth goal of the season.
With the win, the Devils improved to 7-1-1 in their last nine games. Even with that impressive streak, they still sit 20 points behind Atlanta for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Islanders, who beat the Thrashers, 4-1, tonight, remain two points ahead of New Jersey for last place in the league.
Despite the bleak outlook, the Devils are reveling in their recent success.
"We're playing hard," defenseman Colin White said to Gulitti. "We're playing simple, but we're playing as a team, so we just want to keep it going and take it one game at a time and not look too far ahead. But it's definitely fun getting some Ws."
White returned to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury...The Senators' powerplay goal was only their second in 29 chances...Palmieri's goal was his third in five games...The Devils now have four straight home wins, their longest home win streak of the season.