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Devils stun Sabres in come-from-behind shootout win

The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- Patrik Elias stood in front of his locker, ready to face the media after scoring a goal in the closing minutes of regulation, then adding the decisive goal in the shootout, and uttered one simple word that perfectly summed up the atmosphere in the New Jersey Devils' locker room.

"Finally," Elias said.

Elias' goal with 1:06 remaining tied the game in regulation, capping a two-goal comeback in the final 6:30, then put a topper on the night with the game-winning score in the shootout, giving the Devils a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night at the Prudential Center, ending the team's six-game losing streak in the process.

"And it was the right time too, obviously," said Elias, who scored the 368th goal of his career, all with New Jersey. "I had two or three opportunities to get one and he (Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth) just made some great saves. I'm glad we stuck with it and got the goals. We just had to keep working through this. It was a huge win, obviously. After losing six games in a row, we didn't know. We had three or four of those games we could have won and didn't find a way. Hopefully, this will turn us around and jumpstart us a little."

The victory enabled the Devils to improve to 11-8-5 overall and get the two points to stay ahead of the New York Rangers for seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. Before the six-game slide, the Devils were atop the conference standings.

The Sabres (9-13-3) fell for the third straight game.

When it looked as if the Devils were headed to another defeat and the clock winding down, Elias alertly knocked in a rebound shot from David Clarkson for his seventh goal of the season.

On the play, Enroth, getting the rare start instead of Ryan Miller, left after allowing the game-tying goal to Elias. Enroth suffered an apparent knee injury trying to make the save and was carried off the ice, giving way to Miller. Enroth, looking for his first win since November of 2011, made 25 saves. Miller made four saves in the final minute and the overtime.

"I like what he did," Sabres interim head coach Ron Rolston said of Enroth. "He made some huge saves for us. I know he's disappointed he couldn't finish. He'll be back. We're disappointed we couldn't get the win for him. The guys were working. There was a lot of sacrifice out there. I like the way our team is competing right now."

After Clarkson beat Miller in the shootout, Elias ended the contest with a solid fake on Miller and put it past the strewn goalie, ending the losing streak.

"We've been struggling to get goals," Elias said. "Finally, we did some things right. We just couldn't put the puck in the net. I think we deserved to get the win."

Thomas Vanek scored a goal in the first period and Brian Flynn added his first career NHL goal in the third period for the Sabres.

Adam Henrique scored a power-play goal late in the third period for the Devils that sliced the Buffalo lead to 2-1 with 6:30 remaining.

"We got the power play and we kept pushing and tried to get opportunities," Henrique said. "We didn't panic at all. When I scored, maybe we all took an extra breath. This was enough. We played well the last couple of games. We battled hard and deserved this one. We still were doing what we needed to do. It was bound to go in sooner or later. We kept our heads up the whole game."

Johan Hedberg made 22 saves in goal for the Devils, including a huge stop on Vanek in front with just 29 seconds left in the overtime, sending the game to the shootout. Hedberg also made two saves in the shootout to secure the win and end the drought.

Hedberg lost to the Sabres last Saturday in a shootout, so he wasn't about to let it happen again.

"I just tried to adjust a little from the last time we faced them," Hedberg said. "I tried to throw them off a little. I was a little more patient this time and it happened to work."

Sabres right wing Jason Pominville fired a wrist shot that bounced off the right goalpost with just 51 seconds remaining.

"Tonight I got some breaks," said Hedberg, who had been in goal for each of the Devils prior six losses. "They hit some posts and sometimes, that's the difference. We deserved to win. We played as hard as we can the last couple of games. We just didn't get the goal we needed. Tonight we did."

The Devils played their seventh straight game without legend Martin Brodeur in goal, leaving the goaltending duties to Hedberg, who had struggled, allowing 28 goals in the six games that he's played in place of Brodeur. The sure-fire Hall of Famer Brodeur is on the injured list with a bad back and there's no timetable for his return.

The two teams played to a scoreless first period.

The Sabres broke the scoreless deadlock in the second period, taking advantage of a Devils penalty.

Defenseman Anton Volchenkov, who was a healthy scratch for the prior four games, took a bad tripping penalty and the Sabres jumped on the chance, when Vanek scored his team-high 13th goal of the season off a perfect setup from Tyler Ennis with 12 minutes remaining in the period.

The Sabres got their second goal on pure hustle from Flynn, who kept the play alive by diving in front of the goal, then was alert enough to knock home a rebound shot for his first career NHL goal with 10:04 remaining in the third period and a 2-0 Buffalo lead.

The Devils then sliced the lead to 2-1 on power-play goal with 6:30 left. With Christian Ehrhoff in the penalty box for holding, the Devils went hard to the goal and Henrique knocked in a rebound of an Ilya Kovalchuk shot for his seventh goal of the season.

NOTES: The Devils made a series of transactions prior to the game. They first claimed right wing Tom Kostopoulos off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 34-year-old Kostopoulos, a 10-year NHL veteran, did not see action with the Penguins this season, but was put right into action with the Devils. Kostopoulous is a physical forward who has scored 60 goals in his career, but has compiled 705 penalty minutes. He had four goals and eight assists in 81 games last season with Calgary. ... The Devils also shipped rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid back to Albany and recalled fellow rookie Jeff Frazee the same club. Kinkaid made his NHL debut Tuesday night in the loss to Tampa Bay, stopping 12 of 13 shots. The 25-year-old Frazee, the Devils' second round pick in 2005, has never played in the NHL. ... Forward Cam Janssen, who got his first action of the season in the loss to Tampa Bay Tuesday night and drew a penalty for a vicious elbow, was sent back to Albany. ... Defenseman Peter Harrold, who had been a healthy scratch in all but one game this season, dressed and played against the Sabres. "We just wanted to get some fresh legs out there," said Devils coach Peter DeBoer. ... Defenseman Henrik Tallinder was scratched by the Devils due to a lower body injury. ... The Sabres, who entered the game having won three of seven games under interim head coach Rolston, are in the midst of a four-game road streak, their longest of the compressed 48-game schedule.

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