EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ The New Jersey Devils got their ``must-win''
against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, although they didn't play
well in getting it.
Patrik Elias scored two late goals and the Devils inched closer to
first-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division by holding off the
inexperienced Blackhawks 6-4 on Thursday night.
``They are a young team and they somehow outworked us in our zone,'' said
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who faced 35 shots, the fifth highest total
against New Jersey this season.
``It's pretty rare for us to allow four goals,'' Brodeur added. ``We'll take
it. These are big points right now. We're moving up and hopefully we'll get
some confidence offensively.''
Sergei Brylin, John Madden, Turner Stevenson and Grant Marshall also scored
in the game the Devils labeled as a ``must win'' after an embarrassing 3-1 home
loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday.
The Devils moved within six points of Philadelphia. New Jersey has played
two fewer games than the Flyers, which tied Dallas 2-2 on Thursday, and will
play at Philadelphia on Saturday.
``I don't want to talk about tonight,'' Madden said after the normally
stingy Devils got lax after taking a 4-1 second-period lead. ``Things went well
for us in the beginning, and it fell apart late.''
Eric Nickulas, Tuomo Ruutu, rookie Michal Barinka and Tyler Arnason scored
for Chicago, winless in seven straight (0-4-2-1).
The Blackhawks, who are in last place in the Western Conference, made the
Devils work awfully hard to win.
``This team doesn't give up,'' Blackhawks defenseman Bryan Berard said. ``We
struggled a little bit in the second but we played really well in the third.
Mistakes cost us.''
New Jersey appeared in great shape after scoring three times in the opening
14:02 of the second period to take a 4-1 lead.
Marshall scored from the right circle at 3:54 after taking a nice pass from
Moments after Chicago killed off a penalty, Brylin and Madden stretched the
lead to three goals with goals 32 seconds apart.
Brylin found the upper corner of the net at 13:30 with a shot from well
above the left circle that Blackhawks goaltender Michael Leighton appeared to
Madden scored his third in four games on a scramble in front.
Ruutu cut the gap to 4-2 with a power-play goal late in the second period
and Barinka scored in his first NHL game early in the third.
``We got the two points, that's the most important thing,'' Devils forward
Scott Gomez said. ``It wasn't a Devils' hockey win. We had them 4-1 and that
should have been it. Give the Hawks credit.''
Elias gave the Devils a little breathing room at 11:52 of third period, but
Arnason tallied on a rebound with 5:33 to narrow the lead to 5-4.
Elias iced the game with an empty-net goal in the final second, moments
after Martin Brodeur stopped a big blast by Eric Daze.
``With 10 seconds in the game to have their best player with the puck,
teeing it up ...,'' Brodeur said. ``We missed some assignments and didn't play
well. But there are nights like that. But at this stage in the season, you
shouldn't have to worry about how you play defense.''