BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- The New Jersey Devils' stifling defense extended the
Buffalo Sabres' prolonged scoring slump.
Martin Brodeur made 31 saves, and Brian Gionta had two goals and an assist
to lift the Devils to a 5-2 win over Buffalo on Friday night.
The Devils have allowed more than two goals just eight times this season,
while the Sabres hadn't scored more than twice in a game since Dec. 3.
The game did not set up well for Buffalo, which lost its seventh-straight
game, tying a franchise record.
The Devils boosted their mark to 6-1-1 over their last eight games and moved
within two points of Philadelphia for first place in the Atlantic Division.
"We have a great system that gives us a chance to win every night," said
Gionta, who grew up in Rochester, 60 miles from Buffalo. "It's a veteran-led
team and the young guys just follow."
With his father and brother in attendance, Gionta scored for the first time
"It's nice to come here and score because it's so close to home," Gionta
John Madden added a goal and an assist, and Jeff Friesen and Sergei Brylin
also scored for the Devils, who have allowed a league-low 50 goals.
Ales Kotalik and Adam Mair scored for Buffalo, which lost five straight at
home and scored just eight goals during the skid.
The Sabres, coming off a discouraging 2-1 loss Tuesday in Pittsburgh, played
the Devils hard for the first part of the game, and outshot them 9-5 in the
But the Devils, who shut out Atlanta on Thursday, took over in the second.
Gionta opened the scoring at 5:27 of the middle period, banging home his own
rebound from in front of Martin Biron.
Kotalik tied it at 1 with his eighth goal of the year, snapping a wrist shot
from the top of the right circle past Brodeur after Devils defenseman Tommy
Albelin turned the puck over at the blue line.
Friesen put the Devils ahead 2-1 with 1:15 remaining in the second on a
power-play goal, beating Biron with a wrist shot from the slot.
"They came at us hard, but Marty was there for us to make the big saves,"
The Sabres have lost seven consecutive games four times in their 34-year
history, including their first season in 1970-71. The last time was in 1993-94.
"We played a good first period and dominated play," Sabres coach Lindy
Ruff said. "The frustration level is pretty high."
The Sabres have also lost five-straight at home, scoring just eight goals
during the stretch.
New Jersey put the game away in the third with three goals.
Gionta's second of the game and seventh of the season gave New Jersey a 3-1
lead with 15:03 remaining. Coming out of the penalty box after serving a
four-minute high sticking penalty, Gionta broke in on a two-on-one with Scott
Gomez. Gomez slid the puck to Gionta, who redirected it past Biron.
"I just went to the net with my stick on the ice, and he just got it to
me," Gionta said.
Mair closed the gap to 3-2 just 50 seconds later, but the Devils regained
their two-goal advantage when Madden scored at 8:06.
Brylin's power-play goal capped the scoring with just over five minutes
"We knew they were trying to get out of their slump and they were going to
come at us hard," Devils coach Pat Burns said. "They did, but we weathered
Biron, who was making his first start since a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Dec.
6, finished with 13 saves.
"They took advantage of their power play when they had to," Biron said.
The Devils have won seven of their last 11 games against the Sabres and are
2-0-2 in their last four games against Buffalo on the road, including a 2-all
tie in November in a neutral site game in Rochester, N.Y.
"When you allow two goals you should win," said Brodeur, who won his
league-leading 18th game of the year.
There was speculation Brodeur was going to be given a rest in favor of
backup Corey Schwab, but Burns turned to his workhorse. Brodeur has started all
but one game this season.
"We have the confidence knowing that he's going to be there and up for the
challenge and he loves it," Friesen said about Brodeur. "The pressure never
gets to him, that's the key."
Gomez added two assists for New Jersey, who are 3-1 on their five-game road
trip that concludes Sunday in Chicago.