NEW YORK -- New Jersey Devils left winger Brian Rolston had that look in his eye.
The look like he wanted an opportunity. An opportunity to play hero.
Interim coach Jacques Lemaire noticed it, too.
But for the first five rounds of Sunday’s shootout against the New York Islanders, Lemaire turned the other way and elected to go with someone else.
Finally, though, in dire need of someone to step up and deliver another heart-stopping victory, Lemaire called on Rolston.
It was about time.
Rolston’s skate-off shootout goal in the sixth round gave the Devils their fourth straight win, 3-2, over the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. New Jersey is now 12-1-1 in its last 14 one-goal games.
“Rollie was standing up. He wasn’t sitting. He was looking at me a lot. I knew he wanted to go,” said Lemaire, whose team has now won 12 of its last 13 games and 20 of its last 24. “I’m glad that when he went he scored.”
Rolston, who also scored his 12th goal of the season in regulation, ended the game after he deked Islanders goaltender Al Montoya forehand, then hesitated a bit before finishing on the same side with a wrister.
Afterward, as he was going toward the bench to receive congratulations from his elated teammates, Rolston pointed toward Lemaire, giving him another look as if to say, “I told you so.”
“Of course I wanted to go,” Rolston said. “I haven’t been used in that too much since I’ve been here, but I was ready. I wanted to go. Absolutely.”
Rolston, who has become infamous for his scorching slap shot, thought about blasting one from in between the hashes as he moved in on Montoya. But he decided against it.
“I gave it a bit of a thought,” Rolston staid. “But [Montoya] was moving really well to the backhand side, so I thought I’d deke and go forehand on him. And I just froze him enough. It was a good win to get. Marty [Martin Brodeur] was awesome to put us in that position.”
Awesome sounds about right when it comes to describing Brodeur’s effort. The 38-year-old goaltender stopped five of the six shots he faced in the shootout after making 20 saves in regulation and overtime.
Had he not stretched out to rob defenseman Jack Hillen with a glove save late in the extra session, the game would’ve never made it to overtime.
Of course, had Rolston not scored in the sixth round, the shootout may have never ended.
“It’s been a long time,” Lemaire said. “I don’t recall seeing him making this move. Maybe on his right on the left. But not this one.”
Rolston was asked what he was thinking about when he was skating in on Montoya.
“Nothing. That’s the key,” Rolston said. “Nothing’s going through your head. Everybody plays best when you’re not thinking.”
Rolston now has five goals in his last 10 games, and he’s looking a whole lot like a top-line player; certainly not the same player who was placed on re-entry waivers twice in December, only to go unclaimed both times.
“At the time, I didn’t feel like I was playing my best hockey for sure, but I also felt like I hadn’t been given a chance. In the back of my mind I knew I still had it,” Rolston said. “I just needed a little more opportunity. And when I came back, I was given that opportunity. That’s the difference.”
The Devils are now seven points out of a playoff spot with 17 games remaining, but Rolston isn’t ready to look at the big picture just yet.
“We’re not even .500 right now,” Rolston said. “We have a long way to go. And we have to win every game. We’ve had some heroic wins here in the last few games.”
They have. And that trend continued Sunday because of Rolston.