While it wasn’t the most important game of the day, the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres went head to head to determine their seed in the Eastern Conference.
Jamie Langenbrunner scored an empty-net, powerplay goal with three seconds left to defeat the Sabres, 2-1, and clinch the second seed for the Devils Sunday.
“We did what we wanted to do,” Langenbrunner said. “We finished as high as possible. We’ve given ourselves a big opportunity. Now we have to go deliver in the playoffs.”
The Devils will face the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs. The Flyers won five of six meetings this season.
The game-winning goal proved to be an odd one for Langenbrunner. With the Sabres needing to win in regulation, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff decided to pull goalie Patrick Lalime. With the Sabres shorthanded, Ruff wanted to simply try and create some offense. But the move failed, as Lalime knocked into referee Steve Kozari and fell to the ice.
Just seconds after that, Langenbrunner received a pass from Zach Parise and put the puck into the empty net for his 19th goal of the season.
“It was one of the odder ones,” Langenbrunner said. “It caught us by surprise. I saw him taking off. It was obviously a tough situation for them. They had to win it in regulation. It’s tough when you’re short-handed like that. We weren’t sure if they were going to do it or not.”
Thomas Vanek scored his fifth goal in two games to give the Sabres a lead, 1-0, in the second period. Derek Roy fed the puck to low to Vanek, who put it under Martin Brodeur for his 28th goal of the season.
Travis Zajac tied the game at 6:27 of the period. Paul Martin took a shot from the point that Lalime stopped. The rebound came to Zajac, who put home the rebound for his 25th goal of the season.
Zajac set career highs in goals and points (67), and tied his career-high with 42 assists.
Brodeur made a terrific save on Roy, denying the forward in the opening minute of the third period.
The Devils’ goalie helped backstop the team to the William Jennings Trophy, awarded to the team with the least amount of goals allowed. The Devils allowed 186 goals, five less than Boston.
With the win, the Devils clinch home-ice advantage until the conference finals, if they make it that far.
With the win, Brodeur had 45 wins this season. That total stands second to his 2006-2007 campaign, where he won a career-best 48 games…Langenbrunner’s goal ended a six-game pointless streak…The Flyers defeated the Devils, 4-2, in the 2004 Eastern Conference quarterfinals…The public address system malfunctioned for 15 minutes, meaning no announcements were made and no music was played. Eventually, the problem was fixed.
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