The Devils' erratic 8-5 win over the New York Rangers may not have been the night's biggest story (see star No. 3), but it was a critical victory for Jersey in a rivalry dominated lately by their neighbors from across the river. Elias's perfect feed set up Travis Zajac's first-period goal, scored right after Markus Naslund's reviewed goal tied the game, 1-1. Eleven seconds after the Rangers rallied from a four-goal deficit for a 5-5 tie, Elias cashed in a Zach Parise pass for his 12th of the season; he then stole the puck to earn an assist on Brian Gionta's (1G, 3A) insurance tally.
It's been a struggle offensively for Byfuglien this season, but not last night at the Colorado Avalanche. He beat Peter Budaj on a second-period breakaway and scored the game-winning goal off a Martin Havlat feed at 13:51 of the third to give former Avs coach Joel Quenneville a victory in his Denver homecoming, 4-3.
Another strong effort from Johnson, who made 14 of his 32 saves in the first period. But perhaps his greatest accomplishment was ensuring that he didn't leave the game for any reason during the first 10 minutes, as 26-year-old Brett Leonhardt, who works on the team's Web site, was on the bench as Johnson's backup goalie due to an injury to Jose Theodore. The former Div. III netminder was relieved by emergency call-up Simeon Varlamov during the first, and was back at his job as videographer in the locker room -- filming Johnson answering questions about Brett Leonhardt. How surreal. The Capitals won the game, 5-1, with goals from Alexander Semin, two from Alexander Ovechkin and one from a returning Mike Green.
Honorable Mention: Rookie Fabian Brunnstrom avoided a Nicklas Lidstrom poke-check and beat Ty Conklin for what would be the game-winning goal in the Dallas Stars' 3-1 upset of the visiting Detroit Red Wings. Marty Turco had 37 saves in a strong effort. ... Ryan Miller blamed bad ice for Ian White's game-winning goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1. There was nothing bad about Vesa Toskala (24 saves) and the Leafs penalty kill, as they turned back the Sabres on a 5-minute, 44-second man advantage. ... Phil Kessel extended his points-streak to 14 games with a goal and two helpers, as the Boston Bruins scored four goals in the first 12 minutes of the game to smash the Atlanta Thrashers, 7-3. ... Finally, Tomas Vokoun made his case for playing time in stopping 35 Calgary Flames' shots and helping the Florida Panthers win in the shootout, 3-2. Rene Bourque had two goals for the Flames.
Dishonorable Mention: Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec has probably had better nights than giving up three goals on five shots. Ditto Henrik Lundqvist giving up eight goals to the Devils. ... The Rangers power play was 0-for-9 and gave up two shorties to New Jersey. ... Finally, there were fights of varying degrees of awesome in the Boston/Atlanta game between Thornton and Boulton, Chara and Thorburn, Boulton and Lucic and Thornton and Valabik. But David Clarkson and Aaron Voros gave you everything you'd want out of a bitter brawl between two hated rivals in the Devils/Rangers game. And by "everything," we mean flying helmets and a warrior scream at the end.