|Marian Hossa's 27th goal forced the game into overtime and inched the winger closer to his seventh straight 30-goal season.
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Hossa scored with 18.1 seconds left in regulation Friday night and added a goal in the shootout, helping set the stage for Pascal Dupuis to score in the 10th round of the tiebreaker and lift the Thrashers to a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.
"I'm happy I could help the team by scoring the tying goal, but it wouldn't matter if it was me or somebody else," said Hossa, an unrestricted free agent-to-be who could be moved by the Feb. 26 trade deadline if he and the Thrashers don't agree on a new contract. "We didn't quit and we got two points, which was huge."
Johan Hedberg made 30 saves and held the final six Devils off the board in the shootout as the Thrashers began a five-game road trip by pulling into a first-place tie with the Carolina Hurricanes in the Southeast Division.
Atlanta, which rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in regulation, had to come from behind in the shootout as well. Patrik Elias scored in the second round for the Devils, and if Martin Brodeur had stopped Ilya Kovalchuk, the extra point would have gone to New Jersey.
But Kovalchuk scored, as did Hossa in the next round, shifting the pressure to the Devils. Jamie Langenbrunner answered by beating Hedberg, and the next five shooters on each side came up empty before Dupuis roofed his attempt over Brodeur. Hedberg closed it out by forcing Arron Asham to shoot wide.
“I think we played a really good game. We tried to minimize our mistakes and did a good job of it,” Hedberg said. “It was a good win for us.”
Kovalchuk and Todd White scored in the second period to help the Thrashers erase a two-goal deficit, but it looked like the Devils caught the game’s big break when John Madden put them up 3-2 with a fluke goal 8:45 into the third. Madden’s wraparound attempt rode up the stick of Hedberg and over his shoulder, then hit the far post before trickling into the net.
Atlanta coach Don Waddell knew the Devils would go into protect mode, but the Thrashers kept the pressure on offensively. With Hedberg pulled for an extra attacker and the final seconds ticking away, Brodeur got a piece of Eric Perrin’s shot, but the puck trickled through him and along the goal line, where Hossa pushed it across to force overtime.
“They’re a very patient team, they’re very well-coached. They get a lead and they’re tough to play against because they really clog up the neutral zone and do a good job,” Waddell said. “At the end there it was six attackers, we just kept battling and did a great job keeping the puck in a couple times, and the fight level our team showed, I was very proud of the guys tonight.”
Zach Parise and Brian Gionta also scored for the Devils, who moved into a tie for first in the Atlantic Division with the Pittsburgh Penguins and closed within four points of the Ottawa Senators for the Eastern Conference lead. New Jersey travels to Ottawa on Saturday night.
“It was a tough game. We have to forget about it as quick as possible,” said Brodeur, who turned aside 29 shots in his 17th straight start. “Every point is important, and we got (a point), so definitely that’s a positive. Wish we could have two, but it’s a big challenge tomorrow.”
Parise’s team-leading 21st opened the scoring for New Jersey and was the only goal of the first period. Gionta, whose overtime winner Wednesday against Ottawa snapped a long goal drought, made it 2-0 on the power play when he ripped a shot past Hedberg 3:09 into the second.
Kovalchuk responded just 50 seconds later, bringing the Thrashers within a goal with his 40th of the season — the fourth straight season the Russian superstar has reached that milestone. White tied the game midway through the period with Atlanta on a power play.
The Thrashers won’t have long to enjoy their win — they visit the New York Islanders on Saturday. Hossa will be there for that game, but even he’s not sure if he’ll be a Thrasher when Atlanta returns to Philips Arena on Feb. 28.
"Either I'm going to stay or I'm going to leave," Hossa said. "I have a great relationship with Don and I don't think that's going to change. He's a great guy and a great GM."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.