NEWARK, N.J. --New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire was adamant when asked the secret to surviving the rash of injuries that have ravaged his lineup since the start of the 2009-10 season.
"Veteran leadership," Lemaire said.
While the loss of six key players would be a good enough excuse for any team to give in, the Devils refuse. They earned their sixth straight home ice win Saturday with many of the veterans Lemaire cited paving the way to a 6-1 victory over the New York Islanders before 16,961 at Prudential Center.
"You cannot beat experience and the one thing these younger kids are getting on this team while here is that (experience)," Devils center Patrik Elias said. "Being around leaders makes a difference."
One such leader being Elias, who had his best outing in 10 games this season with 2 goals and 2 assists en route to earning the game's first star. Brian Rolston matched Elias with 2 goals and 2 assists while finishing with a game-high plus-4 rating. Goalie Martin Brodeur finished with 22 saves, including 12 stops in the second, to notch his 15th victory of the season. The Devils outshot (42-23) and outhit (23-15) the Islanders. Devil rookies Ilkka Pikkarainen and Mark Fraser led the hit parade with four body checks apiece.
The Devils broke the game open with four third-period goals -- including one each by Elias, Zach Parise and Rolston in a span of 2:02 for a 5-1 cushion. Elias' first goal came on a two-man advantage after Islanders forwards Jack Hillen and Richard Park were each whistled for holding at 9:19 and 9:30, respectively. Elias rifled home a shot from the right circle at the 10:30 mark to give the Devils a 3-1 edge.
"We were a little shell-shocked at the start because the Islanders came out a little hard, but we were able to weather it and find our legs," said Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador, who finished with a team-high 25:34 of ice time while paired with rookie Matthew Corrente.
"The kid (Corrente) is playing great," Salvador said. "He reminds me a little of myself when I was younger. He's happy to be playing and is a tough cookie; he did really well in the fight (with Islanders forward Tim Jackman in the second). Jackman is pretty tough, so I'm happy for him. When the team is doing well the pressure is off and he can just play his game."
Not until Elias' power-play goal in the third, however, was the game in hand.
Islanders coach Scott Gordon was disappointed his team was called for the back-to-back penalties.
"It certainly took the wind out of our sails as far as having a chance to be able to come back," Gordon said. "Being down by two goals put us in a hole because it didn't look like we were generating too much offense. It was too steep a challenge."
Gordon also credited the Devils' patience.
"We didn't have the patience to wait on our forecheck," he said. "We were jumpy and wanted to get in too soon and as a result couldn't cover for it."
The four-point performance gives Elias 10 points over the last six games (7 assists). His second goal came with just 45 seconds remaining in the game.
"Getting Patrik back into this lineup was like making a blockbuster trade because we didn't have him at the start (for the first 13 games of the season)," Salvador said. "I think for a guy like that, to come back and get that feel of hitting the twine a couple times is great for us. It gets him back into a groove."
The Devils opened a 2-1 lead with 8:15 left in the second when Rolston scored his seventh of the season on the power play. Andy Greene battled for the puck along the right-wing boards before feeding Jamie Langenbrunner at the point. Langenbrunner then led Elias in the left circle and the Devils' all-time leading scorer dished to Rolston in the slot just before circling behind the cage.
Needless to say, the line of Rolston-Elias-Langenbrunner has certainly been clicking in recent weeks.
"You've got to play a few games with the guys to know what they're doing," Elias said. "You've got to communicate, you've got to talk to each other and build chemistry. There has to be a comfort with what you're going to do out there. In Rollie's case, he's a shooter, so you have to get him in the open for him to get that shot off. I think the last few games, we've been playing pretty good together."
Parise, meanwhile, extended his career-high point-scoring streak to 10 games (9 goals, 15 points). The Devils' record is 15 straight by Brian Gionta from March 21 to April 18, 2006. For the season, the Devils' alternate captain leads the team with 15 goals, 30 points and a plus-19 rating.
The Devils, who learned earlier in the day that wing David Clarkson would be sidelined 4-to-6 weeks with a non-displaced fracture of his lower right leg, recalled Pikkarainen and fellow forward Vladimir Zharkov from Lowell. Zharkov, who saw 14:40 of ice time in his NHL debut and finished with five shots, opened the game on a line with Dean McAmmond and Matt Halischuk.
"That was our best line in the first period and they played well through the whole game," Lemaire said. "I couldn't ask more than what they did. They could have scored at least a couple of goals."
1 - 0 NYI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NJD
3 - 1 NJD
4 - 1 NJD