Devils 6, Blackhawks 4

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—The New Jersey Devils got their “must-win” against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, although they didn’t play well in getting it.

Patrik Elias scored two late goals and the Devils inched closer to first-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division by holding off the inexperienced Blackhawks 6-4 on Thursday night.

“They are a young team and they somehow outworked us in our zone,” said Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who faced 35 shots, the fifth highest total against New Jersey this season.

“It’s pretty rare for us to allow four goals,” Brodeur added. “We’ll take it. These are big points right now. We’re moving up and hopefully we’ll get some confidence offensively.”

Sergei Brylin, John Madden, Turner Stevenson and Grant Marshall also scored in the game the Devils labeled as a “must win” after an embarrassing 3-1 home loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday.

The Devils moved within six points of Philadelphia. New Jersey has played two fewer games than the Flyers, which tied Dallas 2-2 on Thursday, and will play at Philadelphia on Saturday.

“I don’t want to talk about tonight,” Madden said after the normally stingy Devils got lax after taking a 4-1 second-period lead. “Things went well for us in the beginning, and it fell apart late.”

Eric Nickulas, Tuomo Ruutu, rookie Michal Barinka and Tyler Arnason scored for Chicago, winless in seven straight (0-4-2-1).

The Blackhawks, who are in last place in the Western Conference, made the Devils work awfully hard to win.

“This team doesn’t give up,” Blackhawks defenseman Bryan Berard said. “We struggled a little bit in the second but we played really well in the third. Mistakes cost us.”

New Jersey appeared in great shape after scoring three times in the opening 14:02 of the second period to take a 4-1 lead.

Marshall scored from the right circle at 3:54 after taking a nice pass from Jeff Friesen.

Moments after Chicago killed off a penalty, Brylin and Madden stretched the lead to three goals with goals 32 seconds apart.

Brylin found the upper corner of the net at 13:30 with a shot from well above the left circle that Blackhawks goaltender Michael Leighton appeared to misplay.

Madden scored his third in four games on a scramble in front.

Ruutu cut the gap to 4-2 with a power-play goal late in the second period and Barinka scored in his first NHL game early in the third.

“We got the two points, that’s the most important thing,” Devils forward Scott Gomez said. “It wasn’t a Devils’ hockey win. We had them 4-1 and that should have been it. Give the Hawks credit.”

Elias gave the Devils a little breathing room at 11:52 of third period, but Arnason tallied on a rebound with 5:33 to narrow the lead to 5-4.

Elias iced the game with an empty-net goal in the final second, momentsafter Martin Brodeur stopped a big blast by Eric Daze.

“With 10 seconds in the game to have their best player with the puck, teeing it up …,” Brodeur said. “We missed some assignments and didn’t play well. But there are nights like that. But at this stage in the season, youshouldn’t have to worry about how you play defense.”

Notes

Devils recalled D Ray Giroux from Albany of the AHL with D Brian Rafalski sidelined. Giroux was a healthy scratch. … Brodeur earned his NHL-leading 33rd victory. He has started 11 straight and 65 of 70 games this season. … Recently acquired C Jan Hrdina picked up his first two assists withNew Jersey. … Ruutu also had two assists for Chicago.

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Three Stars

  Game Winning Goal
P. Elias P. Elias
New Jersey Devils
Scored at 11:52 of 3rd

Goaltending

Goalie Team Shot Save
Michael Leighton Chi 27 22
Martin Brodeur StL 35 31