Devils take advantage of home ice, shaky FleuryDec 2, 2006 - 3:09 AM
Elias recorded a goal and two assists as the Devils broke a prolonged offensive slump and four-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
New Jersey, which improved to 9-1-1 at Continental Airlines Arena, returned home after going 0-3-1 on a West Coast road trip in which it totaled just five goals. The Devils take a short trip to Philadelphia for Saturday's game before getting back on familiar ice for two straight contests next week.
"We definitely had a lot of pop to our game, a lot of chances and speed," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "Now we just have to do it on the road once in a while."
Jamie Langenbrunner, Jay Pandolfo, rookie Travis Zajac and Brian Gionta also scored for the Devils, who eclipsed the four-goal barrier for just the second time this season and first in 20 games since their home-opening 7-6 shootout win against Toronto on October 12. Despite surpassing three tallies just three other times, they currently are in second place in the Atlantic Division.
Marc-Andre Fleury had earned points in six straight games (4-0-2) for Pittsburgh, allowing only 13 goals on 170 shots. But the former first overall pick was torched for four tallies on New Jersey's first eight shots and pulled for Jocelyn Thibault midway through the second period.
"It's tough to lose like that," Fleury said. "Today, I didn't play up to the way that I can. I'm going to forget about it right now and be ready for the next one."
With the game tied at 2-2, Pandolfo fired a one-timer from the right faceoff circle between Fleury's pads at 7:21 of the second for his third goal of the season.
"I should have had that, between the legs," Fleury said.
"I was just trying to get open and tried to get off the shot as fast as I could," said Pandolfo, a mainstay on New Jersey's vaunted checking line. "It's obviously nice when we don't give up any goals against (Sidney) Crosby's line and we get one."
Zajac doubled the lead just over three minutes later when he swatted in the rebound of Elias' shot for his sixth tally, chasing Fleury.
"I thought the first half of the game, we were the best team on the ice," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "It was a tough game for (Fleury) to play. Halfway through the game, they had only eight shots. We just got some bad breaks."
Gionta scored on the power play less than 6 1/2 minutes into the third to increase the margin to 5-2. Seven of his team-best 11 goals have come with the man advantage.
Rookie sensation Evgeni Malkin pushed his team-leading total to 13 goals just 42 seconds into the second period to erase a 2-1 deficit for Pittsburgh. The 20-year-old Russian, who scored for the fourth time in five games and third in as many meetings with New Jersey, sent the puck toward the net just before reaching the end line on the right side, and it redirected in off Brodeur's right pad.
Elias netted his six goal with just over eight minutes left in the first period to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead, firing a wrist shot from a sharp angle near the left wing boards that appeared to deflect off defenseman Josef Melichar and by Fleury.
"My last three goals went that way," Elias said. "Hopefully, I can start to put in the puck the normal way. I'll take them any way, it doesn't matter how."
"He's our leader, he's our best player," Gionta said. "We need him to be going, and when he's going, the team's going."
Erik Christensen opened the scoring 74 seconds into the game with his first goal of the season. The 22-year-old flipped a slow wrist shot toward the net from the top of the left circle that bounced past Brodeur as both netminders battled bad ice.
"The bad ice was on the West Coast, too," Elias quipped.
Langenbrunner tied it 2:22 later with a power-play goal, beating Fleury with a one-timer from just inside the blue line between the points. Langenbrunner has four goals in his last three home games.
Making his 17th consecutive start, Brodeur made 23 saves for the Devils, who avoided their longest winless stretch since going 0-4-2-1 from November 10-23, 2001.
Defenseman Sergei Gonchar recorded two assists for Pittsburgh, which has dropped four of its last five games.
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