New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur makes a save during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010, in Newark, N.J. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Bill Kostroun)
Martin Brodeur didn't have to work very hard for his latest shutout.
Brodeur made 22 saves for the 108th shutout of his NHL career and Travis Zajac scored the winning goal late in the second period as the New Jersey Devils snapped a three-game losing streak with a 2-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night. Neither the Devils nor Brodeur were spectacular. New Jersey went back to basics, smothering the Panthers defensively to avoid their first four-game skid since dropping six straight late last season.
"It was a much better effort than before," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I think the guys are at about 80 per cent of what we can do. We can play a lot better than we did tonight."
The Devils weren't crisp in their first home game after five on the road, a trip that concluded with a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday. New Jersey compensated with a determined and diligent effort in all three zones while Brodeur mopped up the few mistakes that led to scoring chances.
"Defensively, we played really well," Brodeur said. "I just had to make a couple saves. We didn't have the luxury of having goals, but we pulled it off."
Dean McAmmond added an short-handed, empty-net goal in the final second for the Atlantic Division-leading Devils.
"It wasn't a very comfortable game and one goal would put them right back in it," McAmmond said. "Marty played well and we did what we had to do to stay solid in our own end. We just got the pucks out to protect that lead."
Brodeur (30-14-1), the league's career leader in wins and shutouts, earned his seventh shutout of the season and the fifth in 14 games. Brodeur earned his 30th win of the season in New Jersey's 48th game. He is tied with Patrick Roy with an NHL-record 13 seasons of at least 30 wins.
It was one of his easiest as Brodeur outduelled Florida's Tomas Vokoun, who was 4-0-1 with two shutouts in his previous five games. Vokoun made 30 saves.
Florida fell short of achieving its first four-game winning streak of the season.
"It was tough," Vokoun said. "We had maybe four or five good opportunities and that was it. They kept us in check for most of the game. We didn't test Brodeur that much. He played solid, but we didn't put on enough pressure. They are a good team defensively, but we had a big opening at the end and we just didn't capitalize."
That chance was a 6-on-4 skating advantage for the final 1:23. The Panthers pressed for the tying goal in the closing seconds after Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner was whistled for hooking and the Florida pulled Vokoun. Even with the two-man advantage, the Panthers didn't come close to scoring.
"We're obviously not scoring enough," Panthers centre Steven Reinprecht said. "We've been playing well in our own zone but we've got to score goals to win."
Zajac broke the scoreless deadlock with 90 seconds remaining in the second period. Following passes from Zach Parise and Nick Palmieri - in his NHL debut - Zajac beat Vokoun between the pads with a shot from the right circle.
Both teams had excellent scoring chances earlier in the period. Brodeur stopped Gregory Campbell on a point-blank shot before making sharp glove saves against Cory Stillman and Rostislav Olesz. New Jersey came close when Parise bunted a shot into the crease that bounced off Vokoun.
The Devils outshot the Panthers 12-5 in the first period. New Jersey's best chance came when Brian Rolston hit the post with 8 minutes remaining during a power play. Rolston fired a shot that deflected off Vokoun's glove before clanging off the pipe.
NOTES: Stephen Weiss, the Panthers' leading goal scorer, returned after missing one game with a lower body injury. ... The Devils placed C Patrik Elias on the injured list on Tuesday because of concussion symptoms following a hit from Colorado D Ryan Wilson on Saturday. With RW Vladimir Zharkov also out due to a lower body injury, the Devils called up right wingers Patrick Davis and Palmieri from Lowell (AHL). It was the second NHL game for Davis. ... Langenbrunner, who will be the U.S. captain at next month's Vancouver Olympics, played in his 500th game for New Jersey.