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Gionta scores in SO as Devils beat Thrashers 3-2 for seventh straight win

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NEWARK, N.J. - It came down to a showdown between a gifted scorer and a goalie likely bound for the Hall of Fame.

Martin Brodeur made a glove save on Ilya Kovalchuk in the shootout and the New Jersey Devils beat the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 on Sunday for their seventh straight victory.

Brian Gionta, second up for the Devils, had the only goal in the shootout. After Gionta beat Johan Hedberg with a backhander, Kovalchuk squared off against Brodeur with the win hanging in the balance.

Brodeur, who had 23 saves in regulation, snared the puck after Kovalchuk tried to manoeuvre him out of position.

"He's a good goalie, one of the best ever," Kovalchuk said. "You need to be real good and real sharp to beat that guy. He moves quick from post to post so I tried to go high."

Brodeur was mindful of not overcommitting.

"I just wanted to stay with him as long as I could, while he was going across the crease" Brodeur said.

In contrast, Gionta beat Hedberg with a speed move, going right at the netminder.

"At the blue line, I saw he had come way out on me," Gionta said. "Once I saw he was out, I tried picking up a little more speed to beat him back to the net."

In regulation, Sergei Brylin and John Madden had New Jersey's goals

Todd White and Kovalchuk scored for Atlanta, and Hedberg made 34 saves as the Thrashers lost for the fourth time in the last five games.

"Against a team like this , we have to be satisfied with coming back and getting a point," Hedberg said. "We made sure we got one point in a tough building against a hot team."

The teams exchanged goals in the first period. White struck first with a power-play goal, a tip in of Tobias Enstrom's shot at 14:51.

Brylin tied it for New Jersey with 50.3 seconds remaining. Devils defenceman Paul Martin attacked the Thrashers' net, unloading a close-in backhander that Hedberg blocked. Brylin pounced on the rebound for his first goal in 13 games.

Karel Rachunek, another defenceman, made the key play on the Devils' go-ahead goal at 15:46 of the second. Rachunek faked a shot just inside the blue line and crossed up the defence by continuing down the right wing boards. From deep in the zone, Rachunek fed a pass across the crease to Madden for an easy tap-in goal.

New Jersey dominated the second period with a 12-3 shot advantage.

Atlanta picked up the tempo early in the third as Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa had solid scoring chances. The pressure paid off Kovalchuk tied the game at 2-2 at 9:34 with a blast from above the faceoff circles for his league-leading 22nd goal.

Atlanta almost pulled it out in the closing seconds of regulation as White and Hossa swarmed the Devils' net.

Each team had four shots in the overtime but Atlanta had the better chances with Brodeur making a stick stop on Kovalchuk and a glove save against Hossa.

Notes: Devils LW Jay Pandolfo missed a second-straight game with a groin injury. ... Brylin is the Devils new ironman with 272 consecutive games played. Pandolfo had played in 307 before the injury. ... The winning streak is the Devils longest since they closed out the 2005-6 season with 11 in a row.

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