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Rolston's goal lifts Devils to 2-1 win over Islanders

by Mike G. Morreale /

NEWARK , N.J. -- Yann Danis' goaltending made Patrik Elias' season debut a success.

Danis stopped 23 shots against his former team as the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Islanders 2-1 on Friday night before 14,109 at Prudential Center in Elias' return after missing the season's first 13 games due to hip and groin surgery.

After shaking off some early rust, the Devils' all-time leading scorer looked relatively sharp over the final 40 minutes. He opened the game centering for rookies Matt Halischuk and Niclas Bergfors, but was inserted between David Clarkson and Zach Parise in the second.

"It was an up-and-down game for me," Elias said. "I was a little sore at the beginning, the second was good and, in the third, I started getting a little tired again. But it's expected and I just had to be smart about it."

Elias played 16:01 on 24 shifts and finished with two shots. Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said after the morning skate on Friday he was hoping to give Elias between 17 and 19 minutes.

The Devils take a perfect 7-0-0 road record into Saturday night's game in Ottawa, but Elias won't be making the trip. Lemaire said Elias will get some rest in hopes he can play against Anaheim at home on Wednesday.

"Overall, I feel tired and sore," Elias said after the Devils won their fourth in a row and 10th in their last 12 games. "It's all the things I expected to feel after my first game in five months. I kept the shifts short, especially towards the end. I wanted to play the right way, especially with the lead, and I think I did well with that."

Elias actually had a nice scoring opportunity five minutes into the game -- on his opening shift -- but his attempt from the top the left circle missed to the long side. He skated off the ice to chants of "Patty-Patty."

"I heard the cheers on the first shift and I showed them what I can do," Elias quipped. "I showed them what they were missing right away … and then missed the shot."

After spotting the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Frans Nielsen, the Devils connected for a pair of second-period goals as Lemaire changed his lines to provide more offense. Cory Murphy's long slap shot beat Martin Biron at 2:38 and Brian Rolston's power-play blast from the right point snapped a 1-1 tie with 6:20 left. The goal was Rolston's second in as many games and his 100th as a Devil.

"Rolly was our best player out there, he was really working hard," Lemaire said.

Danis, who was 10-17-3 with a 2.86 goals-against average and two shutouts with the Islanders last season, was making his first start since a 31-save, 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Oct. 29.

"I thought Yann was really solid," Elias said. "He was calm. He makes the saves and goes about his business and it's nice to have."

He was particularly sharp in the third -- stopping nine shots -- when the Islanders pressed hard in the final minutes to get the equalizer.

"To be honest, I felt more comfortable in my first game," Danis said. "But I battled through the bad rebounds and am happy to get the win."

The Isles came close after pulling goaltender Martin Biron in the final minute. Kyle Okposo's shot to Danis' right with 35 seconds remaining actually skidded along the goal line before being covered up.

"I honestly had no idea the puck went behind me like that since I thought I had it against the post," Danis said. "It was a good play by our defense to clear it like that; it was certainly a close call."

New York opened the scoring at 6:23 of the first when Nielsen, playing in his 100th career game, took a pass from Sean Bergenheim and slipped a backhand through the legs of Danis from the slot that trickled across the goal line.

But the Isles generated little pressure for the rest of the night, and coach Scott Gordon wasn't happy with his team's performance.

"I was disappointed with our play," Gordon said. "We had a first period where we didn't allow ourselves to build off the momentum of scoring that goal. We weren't efficient enough on our forecheck in the second period and took penalties and then we didn't establish any momentum and that hurt."

The Devils tied it when Murphy notched his first point of the season with a blast from the right point that eluded a screened Biron, who blamed himself.

"I tried to steer it to the corner before I stopped it," Biron said. "It got the underneath of my blade and snuck through. It was a bad goal at a bad time in the game."

The Devils, whose penalty-killing unit ranked 11th overall (81.8 percent) but 27th on home ice (73.7), kept the Islanders scoreless on three power-play chances. The club even killed a two-man disadvantage for 21 seconds early in the first.

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