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Even though he is the early frontrunner, Scott Gomez of the New Jersey Devils isn't thinking about being the NHL rookie of the year award yet.

Why worry about something like that when playing is just so much fun now?

Gomez added to his rookie credentials as he set up a goal and scored the game winner in the third period as the Devils defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1 on Saturday, extending their home unbeaten streak to 10 games.

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  • "It's not a big deal, talking to buddies back home is more important," the 19-year-old Gomez said of the rookie award. "I'm just having a great time."

    It's a lot more fun than Gomez's first season in the pros with Tri City of the Western Hockey League.

    "It's all about winning," Gomez said. "My first year back in Tri City we won 17 games. Every win was like the Stanley Cup. It's fun right now coming to the rink for each game, knowing we have a shot to win."

    Gomez, who is believed to be the first Latino to play in the NHL, is a big reason for that. Not only does his five goals and 16 assists lead all rookies, but the 5-foot-11 native of Alaska creates excitement with every shift.

    "He might be the gamebreaker we've been looking for for years," said veteran defenseman Ken Daneyko, who started the game that set up Gomez's goal. "He's very poised for his age."

    Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who gave up a bad goal to Magnus Arvedson on the Senators' first shot, wondered aloud if Gomez is ever going to take a night off.

    "He really has great skills," said Brodeur, who made 28 saves in improing his record to 10-4-3.

    Sergei Nemchinov scored the other goal in the first period and defenseman Scott Stevens added an empty net goal as New Jersey improved to 8-0-2 after losing its home opener. The home unbeaten streak is the best in the NHL this season.

    The injury-riddled Senators, who played without leading goal scorer Marian Hossa (concussion), lost their third straight and fourth in five games. They have three goals in the last three games.

    "We're not using that as an excuse," Senators forward Shawn McEachern said of the injuries. "We didn't play well enough. We hung in the there and then got caught on a line change. We had a couple of chances late, but Brodeur made a couple of great saves. That's the way it's been lately."

    Gomez put New Jersey ahead 7:25 into the third period. Catching the Senators on a line change, Gomez took a pass from defenseman Scott Niedermayer just inside the blueline and beat Ron Tugnutt by cutting to the middle and snapping a shot on which he used Ottawa defenseman Patrick Traverse as a screen.

    "That showed his skill," Brodeur said. "He kept on moving until he got the goalie to move a little."

    Gomez also set up Nemchinov's second goal of the season, which tied the score 1-1. The two worked a give-and-go with Nemchinov giving Gomez the puck behind the net, then cutting in front for a return pass.

    Brodeur, who left the game for a little more than two minutes during the third period because rivets on his skate broke, preserved the lead with a great sliding stop on a redirection shot by Andreas Dackell on a power play with 6:52 to play. Just before the save, Kevin Dineen provided a little humor, raising his stick and pumping his arms after hitting the outside of the net on a 2-on-1 break. While he celebrated, play went on.

    Stevens iced the victory with his empty net goal with 31 seconds to play.

    The Devils applied all the pressure in the opening minute but Ottawa got the goal when Arvedson skated down the left wing alone and scored on a shot from the left circle.

    Tugnutt was outstanding in defeat, making 30 saves, including stops on breakaways by Brendan Morrison and Patrik Elias.

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