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Brodeur, defense help Devils regain division lead

Mar 31, 2007 - 4:41 AM
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Martin Brodeur made sure the New Jersey Devils quickly regained their grasp of first place in the Atlantic Division.

Brodeur made 14 saves and Michael Rupp and rookie Travis Zajac snapped a scoreless tie with late goals in the second period as the Devils broke a five-game home losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the league-worst Philadelphia Flyers.

The Devils have taken advantage of the Flyers' dismal season, grabbing 13 of the 14 available points over the first seven meetings. New Jersey kicked off a season-ending five-game stretch in which it plays four home games, with the only road contest being in Philadelphia on Thursday.

The Devils (46-24-8) relinquished first place in the division and the second seed in the Eastern Conference for a day but regained it with a strong defensive effort. With four games remaining, New Jersey and the idle Pittsburgh Penguins (45-23-10) are tied with 100 points, but the Devils currently hold the tiebreaker with one more win.

"If we win, then we don't have to worry about them," Brodeur said. "Hopefully someone will beat them, they have been playing so good. It's in our hands. This is the only thing you want to have, control of your own fate."

The Devils have not been at full strength for a month but moved closer Friday. Right wing Brian Gionta, who is eligible to come off injured reserve in time for Sunday's game against Boston, is the only remaining regular out of the lineup as checking center John Madden returned in this one after missing six games with a groin injury.

However, playmaking center Scott Gomez left midway through the contest with a bruised thigh.

"I tried it out and there was no movement," Gomez said. "I felt something right away. I couldn't straighten out my leg. It's frustrating. You want to get back (in the lineup) because of the team's sake. The main goal is to be playing your best hockey going into the playoffs."

"The hits just keep on coming," Madden said. "To win hockey games in the playoffs, we need Scott in our lineup, that's for sure."

Captain Patrik Elias, defenseman Colin White and Erik Rasmussen also have missed time recently for the Devils.

"One guy comes back, one guy goes out," New Jersey left wing Zach Parise said. "It seems like every team goes through it at some time in the year. Unfortunately for us, it's the most important time. Guys are playing well in the roles they're put in with guys going down. But I don't think you ever have a benefit of losing top players."

It was Brodeur, with a little early help from defenseman Brian Rafalski, who continued to be New Jersey's mainstay. Just 90 seconds into the game, the Flyers had a great scoring chance when Jeff Carter shot at a vacant net from alone in front, only to have Rafalski go down in the crease and stack his legs to stop the puck.

Rafalski was in the crease during the same scramble when another shot by Philadelphia ended up hitting the post.

"I don't want blocked shots, I want two saves," Rafalski joked.

With 11:13 left in the first, R.J. Umberger was alone at the right side of the crease, but Brodeur slid over with his pads stacked to smother the one-timer. Brodeur stood his ground as the Flyers took the play to the Devils through the first half of the game, New Jersey's third in four nights.

Brodeur extended his career-high wins total to 45, tying Vancouver's Roberto Luongo for the league lead. The netminders are two victories shy of matching the single-season record set by Philadelphia's Bernie Parent in 1973-74.

"It's hard not to look at it," Brodeur said. "I know where I am. I have to win my games, but if (Luongo) wins all his games, he gets it. Hopefully one of us will get to that mark."

If Brodeur wins his next two games, he could have a chance to break the record in Philadelphia - and possibly in front of Parent - on Thursday.

"That would be great," Brodeur said. "It would be ironic (to break it) where he played. I had a chance to meet him, too. It would be nice to see him. It's been at least eight years since I have seen him."

Martin Biron was nearly as brilliant for the Flyers, keeping the game scoreless until Rupp got the Devils on the board with 80 seconds left in the second period. Defenseman Brad Lukowich unleashed a one-timer from the right point that Rupp tipped past Biron from in front for his sixth goal of the season.

"I was just going to the net and the puck came through," Rupp said. "We're trying to get timely goals and move from there."

Rupp, who was denied on a chance four minutes earlier by Biron's poke-check, had not scored in his previous eight games.

"I did a move in practice, every time I put one hand on the stick and try it, the goalie lifts my stick," Rupp said of the first scoring chance. "I tried to put two hands on it (this time) and it was a little out of my reach."

With the Devils on a power play 70 seconds later, Zajac swatted in a rebound from the top of the crease after Parise was stopped by Biron. Zajac has three goals and nine points during his career-high eight-game points streak.

"Zach deflected it, and it came off to the side," Zajac said. "I was just able to get a stick on it and get it in."

"It's one of those goals you need to get when things are not going your way," Parise added. "One of those ugly ones."

Simon Gagne ended Brodeur's shutout bid with 5:57 remaining in the third, when he one-timed a loose puck in the slot over the goalie's glove for his 38th of the season. The tally came on one of Philadelphia's two shots in the period, its last ever at Continental Airlines Arena.

The Devils will be moving next season to a new arena in Newark. The Flyers' Mike Knuble will not miss visiting the Meadowlands.

"You're just glad you wake up the next morning and there's no funk on your feet," Knuble said.

Jay Pandolfo scored an empty-netter in the final seconds to seal the victory for New Jersey, which had lost four of its previous six games and earned its first home win since February 20.








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PHILADELPHIA 0 0 1 1
    NEW JERSEY 0 2 1 3 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: NJD - MIKE RUPP 6 (BRAD LUKOWICH, ANDREW GREENE) 18:40
    NJD - (PP) TRAVIS ZAJAC 17 (ZACH PARISE, BRIAN RAFALSKI)
    19:50
    3RD PRD: PHI - SIMON GAGNE 38 (MIKE KNUBLE, JONI PITKANEN) 14:03
    NJD - (EN) JAY PAND

    Mar 30 10:04 PM


  • NHL
    PHILADELPHIA 1
    NEW JERSEY 3
    3RD PRD: NJD - (EN) JAY PANDOLFO 11 (COLIN WHITE) 19:44

    Flyers vs. DevilsMar 30 10:03 PM


  • NHL
    PHILADELPHIA 1
    NEW JERSEY 2
    3RD PRD: PHI - SIMON GAGNE 38 (MIKE KNUBLE, JONI PITKANEN) 14:03

    Flyers vs. DevilsMar 30 9:55 PM


  • ------------------------------
    Philadelphia
    0 0 --0
    New Jersey 0 2 --2
    ------------------------------

    Shots on goal:
    ----------------------------------
    Philadelphia 8 5 --13
    New Jersey 5 8 --13
    ----------------------------------

    Goalies : Philadelphia, Martin Biron (13 shots, 11 saves). New Jersey,
    Martin Brodeur (13 shots, 13 saves). Referees: Ia

    Mar 30 9:11 PM


  • NHL
    PHILADELPHIA 0
    NEW JERSEY 2
    2ND PRD: NJD - (PP) TRAVIS ZAJAC 17 (ZACH PARISE, PATRIK ELIAS) 19:50

    Flyers vs. DevilsMar 30 9:10 PM


  • NHL
    PHILADELPHIA 0
    NEW JERSEY 1
    2ND PRD: NJD - MIKE RUPP 6 (BRAD LUKOWICH, ANDREW GREENE) 18:40

    Flyers vs. DevilsMar 30 9:08 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PHILADELPHIA 0 0
    NEW JERSEY 0 0 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PHI 8 8
    NJD 5 5
    GOALIES: PHI - MARTIN BIRON
    NJD - MARTIN BRODEUR

    Mar 30 8:13 PM