NEWARK, New Jersey — After years of searching, the New Jersey Devils have finally found some players who know what to do in a shootout.
Scott Gomez and Jacob Josefson scored in the shootout and Cory Schneider was not beaten on both Buffalo attempts as the Devils snapped a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the woeful Sabres on Tuesday night.
"Over the years, I should say the past year, we've had some problems in the shootout," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said.
That's an understatement. The Devils' lost all 13 shootouts last season and had an NHL record of 18 straight shootout losses before snapping the string early this season.
Gomez and Josefson have been the key. Gomez is now 2 of 4 and Josefson is 3 of 6, with both earning their slots because they had success in practice.
It's not like the old days when Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise were almost automatic for New Jersey. But the results are getting better: New Jersey is 4-6 in shootouts, and this one was especially needed.
"This was a game we had to have for a number of reasons," Schneider said. "Buffalo was a tough out. They worked hard and didn't quit. They got the goal early in the third and we responded the right way, got some good chances.
"We figured it may have to go to an overtime or shootout, but you know I think we feel a little more comfortable in the shootout than we did last year, and it was good to see those guys bury those first two. Jo and Gomer have become pretty reliable."
Gomez and Josefson both beat Michal Neuvirth with backhand shots.
After Gomez scored on the first attempt, Matt Moulson of the Sabres missed the net. Tyler Ennis, who scored for Buffalo in the third period, had a chance to keep the Sabres alive, but he flubbed his shot and Schneider had no problem stopping it.
The shootout loss was a rare one for Buffalo, which is now 6-2 this season. The defeat was its four straight and 19 of 21. Neuvirth had 34 saves, including 17 in the third period and the overtime in losing his 11th straight decision.
"I felt pretty good," Neuvirth said. "I only let one get by me, so I'll take that as a positive. The more I play, the more comfortable I feel. It was a good solid game for us. If we play like that, we're not going to lose many."
Patrik Elias scored for the Devils in the first period and Schneider finished with 24 saves as New Jersey ended a season-tying skid.
Adam Henrique blew a chance to give the Devils the lead with 3:27 left in regulation when he failed to hit the net on a penalty shot after being taken down by defenseman Zach Bogosian on a breakaway.
Ennis tied the game 27 seconds into the third period after Zemgus Girgensons pushed a faceoff deep in the Devils' end forward. Ennis jumped on it and beat Schneider with a quick shot for his 14th goal.
Marek Zidlicky set up the Devils' goal with a pass from the left point that Elias redirected pass Neuvirth with his back to the goaltender.
The Devils probably should have had a 2-0 lead in the first period, but Jaromir Jagr and Gomez failed to get off a shot on a 2-on-0 break. Gomez set up Jagr in close for a what looked like a shot at an open net, but the 43-year-old who has 716 career goals got cute, and his return pass to Gomez for a slam dunk did not connect.
The Sabres had a couple of good chances in a 12-shot second stanza. Schneider made a pad save on Matt Ellis in close after Cody Hodgson negated an icing and found his teammate in front.
Girgenson missed an open net on a rebound early in a power play and Schneider stopped a redirection by Chris Stewart seconds later.
Neuvirth also came up big in the period, stopping a shot by Elias from between the circles and stoning Jordin Tootoo from point-blank range roughly 30 seconds later.
"We battled hard," Moulson said. "Both goalies were unbelievable. Neuvy gave us every chance to win the game. It was definitely a good goaltending battle."
NOTES: Devils F Stephen Gionta played in his first game since breaking his left hand in late December. ... Zajac played in his 600th NHL game, all with New Jersey. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges and F Patrick Kaleta seemingly are going to be sidelined for a while with undisclosed lower body injuries. Kaleta needs surgery. Gorges is still being evaluated. ...Elias picked up his second minor penalty of the season.
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