It had been a long time between goals for New Jersey Devils centre Travis Zajac — 27 games to be exact.

Zajac broke out in a big way with a goal and three assists as the New Jersey Devils beat the visiting Ottawa Senators 6-3 on Thursday night.

"It definitely helps the confidence," Zajac said. "You got to stay hungry in those situations, and contribute again in the next game."

Hunger was not an issue in the first period as the Devils scored five times.

Kyle Palmieri scored twice while Joseph Blandisi got his first NHL goal and chipped in two assists. Lee Stempniak had the final tally of the opening period as the Devils roared to a 5-0 lead.

"It was fun to watch," said Cory Schneider who stopped 29 shots for the Devils. "We came ready to play. Coach [John Hynes] talked about what an important game this was. When we get off to good starts, we're a tough team to beat."

Zajac ended his goal-scoring drought, slamming home a setup from Blandisi with 6:04 to go in the first period to push the lead to 4-0, and chase Anderson to the bench after facing only seven shots.

The line of BlandisiZajac and Palmieri combined for 10 points.

Adam Henrique scored New Jersey's final goal into an empty net in the closing seconds.

Mika Zibanejad, Mike Hoffman and Cody Ceci scored for Ottawa, which had won two straight.

Jockeying for playoff position

The game was a battle of teams vying for a playoff spot.

New Jersey started the night as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Ottawa and Montreal.

The Devils responded to the challenge while the Senators came out flat.

"We obviously can't start a game like that," Ceci said. "We dug ourselves a huge hole. We tried to play catch up the whole game, everyone's down. We can't do that again. The league's too good for that."

When the ice chips settled, New Jersey had a 5-0 lead after one period. It was the Devils' biggest outburst in a period this season.

Even the Devils' dormant power play, without a goal in the previous eight games, came alive.

Blandisi started it with a power-play tally at 6:53. The rookie tipped a point shot from David Schlemko past Craig Anderson.

"We've been clicking, creating chances down low but we hadn't found a way to put it in," Blandisi said. "We just stuck with it and pucks were going in tonight."

Palmieri jammed home his own rebound only 64 seconds later to make it 2-0.

Palmieri connected again, this time on the power play, on a drive from the left circle with 8:37 left. It was his 20th this season, the first time the New Jersey native reached that plateau.

Zajac ended his goal-scoring drought, slamming home a setup from Blandisi with 6:04 to go to push the lead to 4-0, and chase Anderson to the bench after facing only seven shots.

Stempniak closed out the first-period scoring on a semi-breakaway, beating Andrew Hammond with 2:36 left.