- E.J. Hradek, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
- 0 Shares
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In team sports, one compliment carries more weight than any other. And, during his 10 full seasons in the NHL, Jamie Langenbrunner has earned that compliment.
He's a winner.
Langenbrunner proved it again Saturday night when he beat Senators goalie Ray Emery on a breakaway chance at the 1:55 mark of the second overtime to lift the Devils to a 3-2 win over the Senators in Game 2 of this Eastern Conference semifinals series. Langenbrunner's OT winner, the fourth playoff overtime goal of his career, helped New Jersey tie the series at 1.
"He reminds me of Claude Lemieux," Devils center Scott Gomez said. "Jamie is a big-time playoff player. He's the real deal. You ask guys around the league; they know about what he can do in big games."
"It's great to have him with us," Parise said. "As younger guys, if we get going too much, he settles us down. It really helps."
Langenbrunner began building his playoff résumé in Dallas. During the Stars' 1999 championship run, Langenbrunner piled up 10 goals and 17 points playing alongside future Hall of Fame center Joe Nieuwendyk and journeyman left winger Dave Reid.
"Joe [Nieuwendyk] was a great guy to be around at that early part of my career," Langenbrunner said. "I think he's one of the greatest leaders to ever play this game. Being around him definitely helped me understand what it was like to play in big games."
After the Stars foolishly traded both Langenbrunner and Nieuwendyk to the Devils in 2002, the Minnesota native made his mark in New Jersey. He was a huge part of the Devils' 2003 Stanley Cup charge. In that playoff campaign, he led the league in both goals (11) and points (18).
"I just really enjoy playing in the playoffs," Langenbrunner said. "I've been very fortunate to have gotten a lot of opportunities."
On Saturday, with his team's Cup dreams hanging in the balance, Langenbrunner made the most of an opportunity that came his way. Working the right-wing wall, he pressured Senators defenseman Joe Corvo, who, sensing trouble, tried to fire the puck back toward the Devils' zone. Corvo's pass hit Langenbrunner's skate and caromed out in front of him with no one between him and Emery.
"I think the puck hit my foot and found its way right to my stick," Langenbrunner said. "I knew [Corvo] was pretty close to me, so I didn't really have time to think."
Without thinking, Langenbrunner put a little deke on Emery -- what he called his "B" move on a breakaway ("I prefer to just shoot it," he said) -- and moved to his right to tuck the puck past the sprawled goaltender to clinch the must-win game.
In the other room, Corvo wasn't going to hang his head.
"I tried to get back up the ice and the puck must have hit him and kicked the other way," Corvo said. "That's overtime. It's a bounce."
The bounce proved to be the difference between life and death for the Devils. If they failed to find a way to win, especially after blowing the lead in the final 30 seconds of regulation time, the Devils would likely be looking at an early postseason exit down 2-0 to a very good Ottawa team.
Instead, the Devils head north with a fighting chance.
"This win was as big as you want to say it is," Devils GM and coach Lou Lamoriello said. "Now, it's a 3-out-of-5 series."
In the first two games of the series, the Senators have seemed bigger, faster and better. In the past, Senators teams looked that way and were unable to advance. That "winner" hasn't emerged for them, yet. Maybe, that player will come forward in the coming weeks.
While we'll have to wait and wonder about that, we know the Devils have a few guys in their room that have done it before. On Saturday, Langenbrunner, a player who has put the dagger in more than a few playoff dreams, came through when it mattered.
Winners usually do.
More from Game 2
• Devils captain Patrik Elias returned to the lineup after missing Game 1 with the flu. Elias received 21:39 minutes of ice time and he picked up an assist on the Devils' first goal. Lamoriello thought Elias had a terrific game and said he was "surprised" by Elias' stamina in the game. RW David Clarkson, who made his playoff debut in Elias' absence, was scratched.
• Senators D Wade Redden enjoyed another strong game. He played a game-high 33:15, finishing a plus-1.
After more playoff heroics in Saturday's Game 2, Jamie Langenbrunner proved yet again that he is a winner.