Travis Zajac's 4 points pace New Jersey Devils in win vs. Ottawa Senators

By Denis P. Gorman, The Sports Xchange

NEWARK, N.J. --The theme which emanated from all corners of the New Jersey Devils' dressing room was irritation.

Imagine what the mood would have been had the result been different.


"I don't think we were happy with the third period at all," said Devils goaltender Cory Schneider following New Jersey's 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at the Prudential Center.

Center Travis Zajac tied a career high with four points -- all in the first period -- and right winger Kyle Palmieri scored two goals and added an assist for the Devils, who won their third in a row. Palmieri has a career-high 20 goals.

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Rookie left winger Joseph Blandisi finished with a goal and two assists, and right winger Lee Stempniak and center Adam Henrique added a goal apiece.


Schneider, who made 30 saves, was the beneficiary of New Jersey's offensive outburst.

"It's nice to get the win," Zajac said. "More importantly, coming out of the last trip where we gutted out two wins that helped us coming into this week. We played with a lot of energy."

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The Devils (24-19-5) entered the game leading the Senators (22-19-6) by one point for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

By the end of the opening 20 minutes, it was plainly evident to the 14,772 in attendance that New Jersey would increase its lead over the Senators to three points.

"I'm not satisfied with anything," said Ottawa coach Dave Cameron after New Jersey swept the Senators in the two-game season series.

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The Devils blitzed the Senators in the first period, scoring five times on 10 shots.

Blandisi opened the scoring at 6:53 with his first NHL goal, which came on the power play.

"It's a dream come true," Blandisi said. "I really couldn't miss that one. (Defenseman David Schlemko) made a great play to find my stick so I pretty much knew when it was heading in my direction that I would have it."


Palmieri scored the first of his two goals in the period just 1:04 later, and he pushed the advantage to 3-0 on his power play goal at 11:23.

Zajac's first goal since Nov. 28 grew New Jersey's lead to 4-0, and Stempniak's unassisted semi-breakaway at 17:24 guaranteed the Devils would tie their season high in goals. New Jersey scored five goals at Ottawa on Oct. 22, and matched the feat on Dec. 3 at Carolina.

Five Devils recorded points in the first-period barrage. In addition to Zajac's four points, Blandisi and Palmieri had three apiece, Schlemko recorded two points, and Stempniak had one.

"We played well around pucks and capitalized on our chances," Zajac said about the first period onslaught. "Special teams are big this time of year; get momentum or lose it and we fed off of it with the power-play goals."

While New Jersey executed its game plan to near perfection in the first, almost literally nothing went as planned for Ottawa.

Senators coach Dave Cameron replaced goaltender Craig Anderson with Andrew Hammond following Zajac's goal. Anderson allowed four goals on seven shots in 13:56. Hammond, whose play at the end of the 2014-15 season sparked Ottawa's run to the Stanley Cup playoffs, finished with 11 saves on 12 shots in 44:10.


"We can't lay down and die like we did," said Senators center Mike Zibanejad, whose 10th goal of the season at 7:30 of the second period cut New Jersey's lead to 5-1.

Left winger Mike Hoffman added a power-play goal with 3:55 left in regulation, and defenseman Cody Ceci added his fourth of the season at 17:14.

Henrique's empty-netter with 17.9 seconds left ended the scoring.

Ottawa outshot New Jersey, 32-20. However, the Devils connected for goals on their two power plays, and they killed three of Ottawa's four man-advantage opportunities.

"(It) felt like a veteran team beat a junior team," Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson said. "They showed what a NHL team is."

NOTES: New Jersey announced that LW Jacob Josefson was activated from injured reserve. The 24-year-old missed 11 games with a lower-body injury. ... C Kyle Turris missed the game because of a lower-body injury. According to the team's Twitter account, Turris had played in 307 straight games, second most in team history. ... New Jersey C Patrik Elias (knee), RW Jiri Tlusty (upper body) and D Jon Merrill (upper body) missed the game with injuries. ... Ottawa scratched D Marc Method and LW Matt Puempel. ... New Jersey LW Bobby Farnham served the final game of his four-game suspension. ... LW Stefan Matteau and C Tyler Kennedy were scratched by the Devils. ... Scouts from Arizona, Calgary, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton and Tampa Bay were listed on the Prudential Center press box seating chart.


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