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Devils 3, Hurricanes 0 @NHLdotcom

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Judging from their performance Friday night, maybe the New Jersey Devils should schedule a few more jersey retirement ceremonies.

After they made former defenseman Scott Stevens the first player in franchise history to have his number retired, the Devils played one of their best games of the season in a 3-0 shutout of Carolina, the team with the NHL's best record.

It was a game Stevens, who captained the Devils to Stanley Cup championships in 1995, 2000 and 2003, would have loved: the Devils clamping down in the neutral zone, converting on their scoring chances and getting another stifling performance from goaltender Martin Brodeur.

The Canadian Olympian became the third goalie in NHL history to reach 100 overall shutouts.

Long pre-game ceremonies can often work against the home team, but the Devils appeared to convert the emotion into energy.

"Whenever there's a ceremony like that, if you're home or away, you always have to be careful not to get too stale," said Brian Gionta, who scored his team-leading 30th goal and had an assist. "But it sparked a lot of emotion, and that kept us going. It felt like a playoff atmosphere out there."

Not much has seemed to slow down the Devils lately, particularly at Continental Airlines Arena, where they have won seven straight. Overall, they are 12-2-1 since the beginning of the year after ending 2005 by losing 11 of 14.

With a win over Northeast leader Ottawa on Wednesday, they have defeated the Eastern Conference's two best teams in a span of three days.

"It was a big concern of ours to play well defensively tonight," Brodeur said. "Beating the top two teams in our conference, there are a lot of positives we can take from that."

Brodeur stopped 28 shots and was scintillating when he had to be on a night when he joined Terry Sawchuk (115) and George Hainsworth (102) as the only goaltenders with 100 combined shutouts in the regular season and playoffs. Eighty of Brodeur's shutouts have come in the regular season, which is seventh all-time and tops among active players.

After a 30-minute ceremony honoring Stevens in front of the Devils' first sellout of the season, Carolina outshot New Jersey 28-21 but didn't get enough sustained pressure on Brodeur until late in the game.

Brodeur's best save came in the second period with Carolina shorthanded. He ranged out of the goal to poke away the puck on a breakaway by Erik Cole as the left wing cut across the crease.

In the third period, his teammates helped preserve the shutout by killing a 50-second 5-on-3 in the final minutes.

Gionta fed Patrik Elias from the left wing for the Devils' first goal in the second period, and about four minutes later Zach Parise knocked in a loose puck after Grant Marshall beat his man down the right boards and circled behind the net.

Gionta closed the scoring midway through the third period when his centering pass for Elias was tipped in by Carolina defenseman Niclas Wallin.

"It was an emotional night for them," Carolina center Doug Weight said. "Retirement or not, it would have been a big game the way New Jersey is playing. I think they have something to prove to the league after getting off to a tough start."

Notes: Cam Ward stopped 18 shots for Carolina ... The Hurricanes had been shut out once this season, 9-0 against Atlanta on Nov. 12. The day before they beat Florida 1-0 for the only other time they were held under two goals all season ... Cory Stillman (torso) and Oleg Tverdosky (upper body) were scratches for Carolina. Stillman missed his eighth straight game, while Tverdosky missed his third in a row.

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