EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ Jeff Friesen has been a streaky goal scorer
since coming to the New Jersey Devils, and it appears he's on another run.
After going 10 games without a goal, Friesen scored his third in four games
early in the third period to lead the Devils to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta
Thrashers on Sunday night.
``Sometimes you get in slumps and, for whatever reason, guys don't get on
the same page,'' Friesen said. ``Sometimes it's a frustrating rut to get out
of, but I feel I'm out of the rut now and I'm starting to contribute
Friesen scored his third game-winning goal of the season by taking advantage
of a bad play by Thrashers superstar Ilya Kovalchuk, whose first career
short-handed goal minutes earlier had tied the game at 2.
Kovalchuk had just been stopped on a three-on-one break, when the Devils
Kovalchuk eventually got the puck along the side boards, but he made an ill
advised pass across the middle of his own zone.
Friesen read the play.
``I just went to the lane where I saw he was trying to throw it,'' Friesen
said. ``Obviously, you're a little surprised. It just came right on my stick.
It was a big goal because this is a big win for the team.''
It was a big disappointment for Kovalchuk.
``I can't give chances like this,'' Kovalchuk said. ``If I want to be a
leader on this team I have to play smarter.''
Martin Brodeur made 24 saves, including a spectacular tumbling stop on
Frantisek Kaberle in the second period, and Grant Marshall scored a goal and
set up another by Patrik Elias to help the Devils win for the fourth time
(4-1-1) in six games.
Jeff Cowan also scored for Atlanta, which lost for the second time in two
Kovalchuk had tied the game at 4:19 with his first career short-handed goal.
A little more than two minutes later, he led a three-on-one rush into the
Devils' zone. Brodeur made a pad save on the initial shot and Cowan banged the
rebound off the goal post.
Friesen capitalized on Kovalchuk's mistakes seconds later for his 11th goal.
``He's 20-years-old and he still has lots to learn,'' Atlanta coach Bob
Hartley said of Kovalchuk. ``Tonight is a good indication of this. He has lots
to offer. He put us back in the game and he cost us the game. That's part of
being a 20-old-year kid.''
Brodeur made the lead stand, making his best save on a shot through a screen
by Slava Kozlov with about five minutes to go.
New Jersey scored two power-play goals in the first period.
Marshall gave the Devils the lead at 3:37 by deflecting a point shot by
Brian Rafalski past Dafoe.
Marshall set up Elias' second goal in two games with a backhand shot from
the right faceoff circle. Dafoe made the save, but Elias swept the rebound home
for his team-high 17th goal.
Ronald Petrovicky was originally credited with the Thrashers' first goal. He
took a shot from the left circle that Brodeur stopped. The Devils' failed to
clear the puck and Cowan and Petrovicky swatted at it simultaneously, sending
the puck over Brodeur's shoulder.