EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Now that Jay Pandolfo has found his scoring touch, it's time to work on his celebration technique.
The New Jersey Devils overcame the strangest no-goal of the playoffs and a wacky near goal to grab the lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Ottawa Senators had top defenseman Wade Redden in the lineup and some luck on their side, but that wasn't enough as they lost 1-0 Thursday night.
Sergei Brylin scored on a masterful deflection, his first goal of the playoffs for the Devils, who lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. Game 4 is Saturday in New Jersey.
By the NHL's admission, Pandolfo should've given the Devils a 2-0 lead in the first period. But his shot that went in the net wasn't detected before it bounced out. He didn't know whether to throw up his hands in happiness or frustration.
''I didn't know really what was going on,'' said Pandolfo, who scored in each of the first two games of the series after notching six goals in the regular season.
With 7:50 left in the first period, Pandolfo's shot from in front got well inside the right post. The puck struck a pad at the bottom of the net and kicked right back out and under goalie Patrick Lalime, who was seated.
''The goalie did the splits and I never saw it after that,'' goal judge Paul McInnis said.
Jamie Langenbrunner, who made the pass to Pandolfo, raised his arms in celebration as referee Kerry Fraser skated in. John Madden appeared to ask Fraser about the call of no-goal, and the goal light never came on.
''I imagine somebody will be held accountable for it, you've got to be,'' Devils coach Pat Burns said.
Pandolfo never saw the puck in the net. The lack of a reaction by most Devils was a factor in why replays weren't vigorously searched.
''I guess I have to learn to celebrate a little more. Maybe they would've gone upstairs to check it,'' Pandolfo said.
After a 39-second stoppage, the puck was dropped without Fraser talking to off-ice officials. It wasn't until near the end of the period that Fraser got on the phone and appeared to get the news it was a goal. The replay was also shown on the center-ice video board, further angering Burns, who waved his arms from the bench.
''There was no indication from anyone on the ice that the puck had gone in, and there was no indication from any of the initial camera angles viewed that the puck had crossed the goal line,'' said Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations.
''The in-net camera was the only angle that showed the puck had crossed the goal line, and when that angle finally was available, the puck had been dropped and play had resumed,'' Campbell said in a release issued during the second intermission.
Martin Brodeur made 24 saves for his fourth shutout of these playoffs and 17th in his postseason career. Lalime stopped 23 shots for Ottawa, blanked for the fourth time in five playoff losses. The Senators, winners of Game 1, have lost consecutive playoff games for the first time this year.
''It seems like we didn't have any emotion and stuff like that,'' Lalime said. ''We have to find that. I can't answer for 25 guys.''
The Devils improved to 7-0 at home in front 19,040 fans, New Jersey's first sellout this postseason.
The only goal that counted came with 9:12 left in the first period. Defenseman Brian Rafalski shot from the right point, and Brylin deflected it between his legs while his back was to the goal, and it went past Lalime. It was Brylin's first playoff goal in 16 games, dating to the 2001 Stanley Cup finals.
''It feels great,'' Brylin said. ''I had chances, and they didn't go in for me. I was just trying to stay positive, and I knew that it was going to come.''
Brodeur was his usual steady self throughout in matching his team playoff record of four shutouts in one year, set in 2001. He stretched his shutout streak to 97 minutes, 58 seconds.
The only time he looked unsure was when he helplessly shook his head on Smolinski's strange dump-in.
''I had a bad feeling,'' Brodeur said. ''I don't know if you saw my reaction behind the net. I couldn't believe it didn't go in.''
Brodeur made several nice stops in front, including denying Radek Bonk in the first period and helping thwart a 2-on-0 in front of the net. He said his toughest save was a glove stop on Bonk in the third period.
Notes: Neither team has scored a power-play goal in the series. New Jersey was 0-for-4 in the game and is 0-for-11 in the three games. Ottawa was 0-for-2 and is 0-for-11 overall. ... Devils RW Turner Stevenson, involved in the knee-on-knee collision with Redden, was scratched (groin), replaced by Jim McKenzie.
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