The Devils were shut out 11 times last season and appeared headed for blanking No. 1 of the new season tonight until Patrik Elias got a fortunate bounce to net the tying goal with 2:49 remaining in regulation. Then, Zach Parise scored with 37.6 seconds remaining in overtime and the Devils had a well-earned 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena.
The Devils are 2-0 for the first time since 2002-03.
"We stayed with it," Devils coach Brent Sutter. "We played a heck of a hockey game here tonight. We skated well with the puck, checked very well and were good in our own zone. For the most part, outside of that power play goal they got, our penalty kill was good. When you have 49 shots on net and you only get 15 against you, it's a pretty solid hockey game."
Sutter tried pretty much everything he could think of to squeeze a goal out of its team, but Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped the 43 shots he faced. Sutter shortened his bench, switched his right wings on his first and third lines, and even used four forwards on a 4-on-3 power play in the third period -- something he said he would "probably" do again."
Sutter moved Dainius Zubrus up from the fourth line to take Brian Gionta's spot at right wing on the top line with Elias and Brian Rolston. Gionta moved down to play on the checking line with Jay Pandolfo and John Madden.
"We wanted more size, size and strength," Sutter said of his reason for putting Zubrus with Elias and Rolston.
David Clarkson -- who Sutter credited for his second period fight with Hal Gill -- had been playing with Madden and Pandolfo, but fell pretty much out of the rotation in the latter half of the third period as did fourth liners Bobby Holik and Mike Rupp, who had two shifts apiece in the third.
"Mac (assistant coach John MacLean) and I just got a feel," Sutter said in explaining why juggled his lines and shortened his bench.
Although Rupp played only six shifts and 2:41 in the game, Sutter said he was pleased with the way he played. Rupp had a first period fight with Eric Godard, which he lost at the end.
"That was nothing against Ruppy," Sutter said. "Ruppy did a great job. His role is his role and some nights he play more often than others."
Elias said that he wasn't looking to pass to Rolston on his tying goal, though the center was in the vicinity in front when the puck went in off Hal Gill's right skate.
"It went through my aura," Rolston joked.
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said career win No. 540 -- now 12 away from breaking Patrick Roy's NHL record -- reminded him of some games he played in earlier in his career.
"It was a fun game to be a part of," he said. "It was typical of when I started in the league. Not many shots and we dominated with a lot of shots and didn't score a lot."
Zubrus didn't know what happened on his first period hit that flattened Penguins forward Matt Cooke in the neutral zone. Cooke took a while to get up and Tyler Kennedy had words with Zubrus as he was leaving the ice. Godard also tried to confront Zubrus in the second period, but it never escalated into blows.
"I don't know what happened," Zubrus said. "I went to hit him and then I followed the play into our end. I haven't seen the (replay)."