BUFFALO, N.Y. - Even on an off night, Martin Brodeur can come up with the big stops when the New Jersey Devils need them most.
Brodeur shook off two fluke first-period goals to stop the final 20 shots he faced, including two in a shootout, allowing the Devils to rally to a 3-2 victory over the free-falling Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
While the Sabres lamented how they squandered a two-goal lead to extend their winless streak to nine games (0-4-5), Brodeur was able to sit back in his locker and smile. It didn't matter that he allowed Daniel Paille to score twice, the second one from a bad angle, the puck somehow sneaking in between Brodeur's skate and the left post.
What was important was how the Devils found a way to bounce back.
"For some reason we stayed in there and they didn't score that big goal they needed to take a big advantage on us," said Brodeur, who allowed two goals on the first five shots he faced. "They let us hang around and we made them pay."
New Jersey's David Clarkson forced overtime by scoring on a wraparound with 67 seconds left in regulation. Brodeur then did his part, first foiling Henrik Tallinder's one-timer from the slot with 34 seconds left in overtime, and then stopping Ales Kotalik and Thomas Vanek on what proved to be two weak shootout chances.
After Brian Gionta scored New Jersey's first shootout goal, Patrik Elias sealed the win by slipping a backhander through Ryan Miller's legs.
It's the fourth time the Devils have won this season when trailing by two goals. And they're 3-0 against the Sabres, all three victories decided in a shootout.
"We found a way to win," Sergei Brylin said. "Call it whatever you want, but two points is two points."
Two points is something the Sabres haven't produced since a 6-5 shootout win at Philadelphia on Dec. 22. The nine-game drought is now the fourth-longest in team history, and worst since the Sabres went through an 0-9-2-1 skid during the 2002-03 season.
The Sabres haven't been playing poorly. The loss to New Jersey was their third straight decided in a shootout. And yet, Buffalo continues to struggle offensively - having produced 11 goals in its past nine games - and the killer instinct the team possessed when it ran away with the regular-season title last year is missing.
"We're playing good hockey," said Miller, who had a tough night despite stopping 23 shots. "We're not just going through the motions. We haven't been getting the victories."
Paul Martin cut the Sabres' lead to 2-1 late in the second period when his shot from the right point knuckled in off the webbing of Miller's glove. Clarkson scored from beside the net when Miller was late getting down to protect the short side.
"I wasn't thrilled with the last goal," Miller said. "The puck hits a skate and goes right to a guy I didn't see. It's kind of what we're going through."
Even Brodeur felt bad for the Sabres.
"They're snakebit it looks like," Brodeur said. "I thought they outplayed us. I thought they probably deserved better. But I think when you're not winning, sometimes you find ways to lose games."
That's not a problem for the Devils, who are 8-2-0 in their past 10 and 19-5-1 in their past 25.
Brodeur's also on a roll. He improved to 8-1-0 in his past nine starts, a stretch in which he's allowed only 12 goals.
Notes: The Sabres play eight of their next nine games on the road. ... Devils C John Madden played in his 600th career game but missed the third period when he was cut by a skate. ... Paille's opening goal, scored 58 seconds in, was the earliest scored by Buffalo this season. ... Brodeur hadn't allowed two goals in the opening period since giving up three in a 4-3 overtime win over Boston on Dec. 5.