As he did in many of his first 999 NHL games, Patrik Elias
put his stamp on No. 1,000.
Elias made his 1,000th game one to remember by scoring a goal and setting up Ilya Kovalchuk
for the game-winner in the third period as the New Jersey Devils
snapped a two-game slide by beating the Florida Panthers
5-2 on Friday night.
"In typical Elias fashion, he played a great game on a big night," coach Peter DeBoer said.
Elias is only the third player in franchise history to play all of his first 1,000 games with the Devils. He's also the team's all-time leader in points with 853 after finishing with a goal and a pair of assists.
"This was a special night for me," Elias said, "I'm glad it worked out and I'm glad we got a win. We needed it."
Elias made his debut during the 1995-96 season and was a member of New Jersey's championship teams in 2000 and 2003.
"I'm amazed at guys with that type of longevity," DeBoer said. "Not just the longevity, but also the level he plays at."
Kovalchuk started the winning rush from his own end when he eluded two defenders, passed to Elias on the right wing, then kept skating toward the net. He took a return pass from Elias and snapped a quick wrist shot past Markstrom for the go-ahead goal.
"He's an all-time Devil," Kovalchuk said after Elias became the 271st player in NHL history to play in 1,000 games and the 46th to do so with one team. "He deserves everything he's got. He's a great teammate and a great player. It's enjoyable to play with those guys."
Kovalchuk and Zach Parise
added empty-net goals in the final minute as the Devils handed the Panthers their second loss in as many nights. Florida lost 3-2 in overtime to the Rangers in New York on Thursday.
"Their top-end, top-paid players definitely produced," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said.
New Jersey twice took one-goal leads, only to have the Panthers quickly get even.
Rookie Adam Henrique
beat Markstrom with a backhander off a feed from Parise at 3:53 of the opening period for his 11th goal. Florida tied it at 7:33 when Mikael Samuelson took a drop pass from Marcel Goc
and one-timed it past Johan Hedberg
from well into the right circle.
Elias put the Devils in front again by beating Markstrom just 36 seconds into the second period with a slap shot from the slot for his 14th of the season. This time, the Panthers needed just over two minutes to get even -- Krystofer Barch
beat Hedberg through the legs on a 4-on-2 rush at 2:46 for his first goal since last Feb. 24, when he played for Dallas.
"We had an answer for them when they scored the first couple of times," Dineen said. "I liked the play of some of our players, but it was not a complete game for us. ... It was a tough road game for us, but for the most part, the effort was there."
Markstrom made 25 saves for Florida. Hedberg had 22 for the Devils.
"We showed some composure tonight," DeBoer said. "That's a team that finds a way to hang around like they did against the Rangers last night. Our best period was our third, which was important."
Material from team media was used in this report