New Jersey 4, Washington 1

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WASHINGTON (TICKER) —An unlikely source helped keep the New Jersey Devils rolling.

John Madden scored three straight goals for his first hat trick in more than two years as the Devils pulled away for their fourth straight win, 4-1 over the Washington Capitals.

Madden had just one goal in his previous 20 games but broke a 1-1 tie with 3:13 to go in the second period, added an insurance tally just over six minutes into the third and scored into an empty net with 53 seconds to play.

“It is kind of like, `Who is it going to be tonight?’” Devils center Scott Gomez said. “It was a team effort. Everyone contributed, and that has been our success.”

Turner Stevenson had the other Devils’ goal off an assist by Madden, whose only other hat trick came on October 28, 2000 at Pittsburgh, where he set a career high with five points.

“It’s all about confidence,” Madden said. “You get one and you want to get some more. And then you will go a couple games without one and it seems like nothing you shoot will go in. It comes and goes.”

New Jersey has won 10 of its last 11 games and has registered points in 14 straight (12-0-1-1).

“It’s a great thing what’s going on with our team right now,” Madden said. “We have great team chemistry. Guys play for each other, and that makes a difference.”

Michael Nylander scored the lone goal for the Capitals, who failed in a bid for their third straight win.

“We just seemed to be not clicking,” Washington coach Bruce Cassidy said. “The want was there on the bench. Down at that level, the guys wanted to do the right things and get it done. It just seemed that we ran into a team that eventuallly pushed the pace a little bit on us.”

Nylander put in a rebound 4:49 into the second period to break a scoreless tie. But the Devils limited linemate Jaromir Jagr to one assist and four shots after the All-Star collected seven goals and five assists in his previous six games.

“We keyed on him,” said Martin Brodeur, who made 27 saves. “He has been destroying teams as of late and we wanted to be sure that he didn’t do it to us. We played him good. Scott (Stevens) and everyone did a great job on him all night.”

Stevenson tied it just over five minutes later, snapping a one-timer from the inner edge of the right faceoff circle past Olaf Kolzig for his fifth goal.

Madden took over thereafter. With 3:13 to go in the period, a lazy backhanded pass in the neutral zone by Jagr sprung the Devils on a 3-on-1. Defenseman Brian Rafalski worked a give-and-go with Patrik Elias but was denied by Kolzig. Madden trailed the play and stuffed in the rebound.

With 13:48 left in regulation, Madden again was the trailer on an odd-man rush, got a pass from Jay Pandolfo in the slot and deked to his backhand before lifting the puck off the right goalpost and by Kolzig’s glove.

Madden sealed the win with 53 seconds left, moving into a tie for third on the team with 13 goals.

“Any goal in this league is fun to score,” he said. “I don’t care if it is an empty-netter, it’s a goal. I remember the year that (Pavel) Bure had 60 goals, he had 12 empty-netters.”

The news was not all positive for New Jersey. Left wing Sergei Brylin suffered an apparent fractured right wrist in the first period after Washington’s Steve Konowalchuk checked him into teammate Colin White.

“It’s a big concern,” Madden said. “He has been one of our unsung heroes. They can put him in wherever they need him. We need him. It’s a huge blow. For him to miss any games stinks.”

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Martin Brodeur StL 28 27