NEWARK — After not scoring in more than a month, Stephen Gionta gave the New Jersey Devils a big lift at 4:57 of the opening period Friday night.
The ageless Jaromir Jagr sent Gionta in on a mini-breakaway and the winger did the rest, burying a big goal to boost the Devils (22-19-11) to a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals in a key Metropolitan Division clash.
“It’s nice to be able to chip in offensively,” Gionta said. “Ryan Carter did a nice job of driving the net and drawing the defenders to him and giving me a shooting lane.”
Adam Henrique scored what proved to be the game-winning goal, taking a Jagr pass on the doorstep to beat Michal Neuvirth 1:45 into the second period and Cory Schneider made 30 saves for his second straight victory.
“Cory has been unbelievable for us all season long, and he keeps giving us a chance to win every night and that’s all we can ask for,” Gionta said.
With Dmitry Orlov in the box for holding just 41 seconds into the second period, the Devils went to work on the power play. Jagr dangled through the Washington defense, eventually feeding a pass to Henrique, who was all by himself in front of the net and Henrique buried it for his 14th goal of the season to double the Devils lead. It marked the second straight game Henrique found the back of the net, after scoring in the Devils’ 7-1 victory over St. Louis Tuesday.
New Jersey managed just seven shots in the third period and Washington was able to get on the board when Jason Chimera re-directed a shot from the point home 10:10 into the final stanza. But as captain Bryce Salvador said, two points is two points, especially when the Devils need as many as possible.
“At the end of the day, we got the two points and it wasn’t pretty,” Salvador said. “The effort wasn’t what we wanted tonight, but it shows the character of this team to get these two points on a night where it wasn’t our best outing.”
New Jersey is now in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of Washington.
Gionta’s goal came just 26 seconds after the Devils failed to convert a power play chance, but Jagr found the puck on his stick in the neutral zone and led Gionta in. Neuvirth, who made 28 saves on the night, appeared to have it in between his left arm and his pads, but the puck squirted through and gave New Jersey the lead.
The result was all too familiar for the Capitals, who have now lost seven games in a row.