EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Patrik Elias returned from the Olympics with bruised ribs and a scoring slump.
He broke out Wednesday night with three goals and two assists to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 6-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Elias had only three goals and six assists in the previous 13 games.
"You obviously want to do well," he said. "You want to score and you want to help the team. The main thing is to stay positive. It's hard. It's not easy."
Scott Gomez added a goal and three assists, two on goals by Elias.
"Patty took over right from the get-go," Gomez said. "We need that. That's his job. He's a goal scorer. He's had tons of chances in recent games. When he got that first one, you could tell he was on a roll."
Zach Parise and Brian Rafalski also scored and Martin Brodeur made 25 saves as New Jersey (40-27-9) reached 40 wins for the ninth straight season. The Devils joined Montreal and Boston as the only franchises to accomplish the feat.
The Devils are sixth in the Eastern Conference with 89 points and trail fifth-place Philadelphia by four points.
The Devils scored three consecutive goals in the second period to gain the upper hand.
With the game tied at 2, Parise put New Jersey ahead to stay at 2:55. His pass from the left wing intended for Brian Gionta glanced off Penguins defenseman Eric Cairns and deflected past Marc-Andre Fleury. Gionta got an assist, extending his scoring streak to nine games.
Gomez beat Fleury with a shot over the glove for a power-play goal at 8:11 that gave the Devils a 4-2 lead.
Elias completed his seventh career hat trick at 12:45 as the Devils took a three-goal lead.
Hilbert scored his second, a power-play tally with 2:38 remaining, to cut New Jersey's lead to 5-3. The Devils extended it on Rafalski's power-play goal at 5:15 of the third.
Rita finished the scoring at 8:07.
Crosby scored his 35th on the first shot of the game, just 27 seconds after the opening faceoff.
"It was good that we were able to come out strong," Fleury said. "Getting that first goal was big but there was still a lot of time to be played, and the Devils kept coming at the net."
Elias followed with a power-play goal at 3:18 and a four-on-four score at 7:07.
Hilbert pulled the Penguins even with a power-play goal with 47 seconds remaining in the period.
|Patrik Elias is appreciated by teammates for his impressive five-point night. (AP)|
|New Jersey (40-27-9) «||2||3||1||6|
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|00:27||Sidney Crosby (35), Slap Shot - Assists: Colby Armstrong and Ryan Whitney|
|03:18||Power Play - Patrik Elias (11), Slap Shot - Assists: Scott Gomez and Jamie Langenbrunner|
|07:07||Patrik Elias (12), Slap Shot - Assists: Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski|
|19:13||Andy Hilbert (9), Wrist Shot - Assists: Konstantin Koltsov and Brooks Orpik|
|02:55||Zach Parise (12), Wrist Shot - Assists: Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta|
|08:11||Power Play - Scott Gomez (28), Slap Shot - Assists: Patrik Elias and Brian Rafalski|
|12:45||Patrik Elias (13), Wrist Shot - Assists: Sergei Brylin and Martin Brodeur|
|17:22||Power Play - Andy Hilbert (10), Snap Shot - Assists: Brooks Orpik and Sidney Crosby|
|05:15||Power Play - Brian Rafalski (6), Slap Shot - Assists: Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner|
|08:07||Jani Rita (6), Backhand Shot - Assists: Michel Ouellet and Tomas Surovy|
|02:42||Gonchar: Hooking - 2 min.|
|05:30||Koltsov: Interference - 2 min.|
|05:48||Rasmussen: Boarding - 2 min.|
|07:14||Surovy: Tripping - 2 min.|
|07:27||Langenbrunner: Tripping - 2 min.|
|07:27||Armstrong: Hooking - 2 min.|
|10:04||White: High sticking - 2 min.|
|15:25||Parise: Holding - 2 min.|
|17:22||Langenbrunner: Tripping - 2 min.|
|04:39||Melichar: Delaying Game - 2 min.|
|04:33||Whitney: Hooking - 2 min.|
|10:49||Rasmussen: Interference - 2 min.|
|12:28||Crosby: Hooking - 2 min.|
|12:28||Crosby: Unsportsmanlike Conduct - 2 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|