Patrik Elias had the deciding goal in the shootout as the Devils extended their Atlantic Division lead to eight points with a 4-3 win over the Penguins on Thursday night.
"We always get up for these games; they're big games, four-point games," said New Jersey center Travis Zajac, who had a third-period goal. "If we want to stay ahead of them in the standings we've got to keep winning. We always find a way. It was a good team win."
Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and Michel Ouellet scored for the Penguins, who had won three of four but fell two points behind Ottawa for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race in losing to the Devils for the second time in 10 days.
"It's always better to get two points with the win, but New Jersey has a good team," Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "And the guys didn't quit, they kept playing until the end and we were able to get a good point."
The game took place while the Penguins' owners, state and local politicians and NHL officials were meeting across the state in Philadelphia in talks aimed at funding a new arena for Pittsburgh. If talks collapse, the team could end up relocating in Kansas City or another city after the season
Fans in the sellout crowd of 17,132 started a "Save Our Pens" chant less than a minute into the game, and there were a handful of banners hanging from the balcony seating ranging from being anti-Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell or anti-Kansas City to pro-Penguins and pro-Pittsburgh.
Those fans went home unhappy when the left-shooting Elias skated far to his right on Fleury as the final shooter in the shootout. He skated from Fleury's left to his right before flipping the puck past him.
"I just wait if (the five-hole) opens up," Elias said. "Or if he keeps sliding, I cut it back. I think it's pretty hard for the goalies if you have (those options)."
New Jersey's Martin Brodeur stopped Erik Christensen, Malkin and Sidney Crosby to earn his 40th win of the season. Brodeur has won 40 games for the sixth time and became the only goaltender to win 40 in consecutive seasons on multiple occasions.
"Every time you win 40 games or get to these certain plateaus, they're pretty special," Brodeur said. "There's not many guys that are able to say that."
Ouellet had tied the game with 3:38 to play after Malkin intercepted an ill-advised pass by Scott Gomez behind the Devils goal line. Gomez was trying to get the puck to Greene, who was behind the net.
But Malkin stole the puck and fed Ouellet, who was skating alone down the slot and one-timed a slap shot high to the stick side of Brodeur.
Malkin opened the scoring 6:48 into the game while on the power play. Brodeur's stick got a piece of a Mark Recchi shot, and the puck deflected to an open Malkin, who scored his 30th of the season -- tops among NHL rookies.
Greene tied the game 3 1/2 minutes into the second period when Fleury never saw the defenseman's wrist shot from the point while New Jersey was on the power play.
"It's a great feeling," Greene said of scoring his first career goal in his 10th game, "especially coming in a W."
Brylin gave the Devils their first lead with five minutes to play by scoring while sprawled out on the ice.
Johnny Oduya took a shot from the left point off pass from Gomez, who won a faceoff to the right of Fleury. Fleury made the initial save but Brylin dove to the right for the rebound and -- while stretched out on the ice -- slapped the puck into the net for his 15th goal of the season.
But Gonchar tied the game at 2 with a short-handed goal 7:32 into the final period. Alone along the right boards, he threw what appeared to be an innocuous shot toward Brodeur but somehow slipped through his pads.
New Jersey took a short-lived lead four minutes later, when a Jamie Langenbrunner shot was juggled by Fleury. Zajac, standing to the left of Fleury, found a way to get the rebound past him.
"The (initial) shot hit my defense and just ended up on the other guy's blade and I got it with my arm," Fleury said. "But it just bounced in."
New Jersey dressed only 18 players because of a groin injury to winger Brian Gionta, an unspecified ailment to defensman Colin White that occurred during warmups and Cam Janssen was serving the final game of a three-game suspension.
"We realized how big a game it was for both teams," New Jersey coach Claude Julien said. "Under the circumstances, I think the guys came in and did a good job.
"It was a really good effort by all our players tonight."
|Patrik Elias finds a way past Marc-Andre Fleury for the only goal in the shootout. (AP)|
|New Jersey (41-19-8) «||0||2||1||0||1 (1)||4|
|Pittsburgh (36-21-10)||1||0||2||0||0 (0)||3|
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|06:48||Power Play - Evgeni Malkin (30), Snap Shot - Assists: Mark Recchi, Sidney Crosby|
|03:34||Power Play - Andy Greene, Wrist Shot - Assists: Patrik Elias, Brian Rafalski|
|14:57||Sergei Brylin (15), Backhand Shot - Assists: Johnny Oduya, Scott Gomez|
|07:32||Short - Sergei Gonchar (12), Wrist Shot - Assist: Jordan Staal|
|11:38||Travis Zajac (13), Snap Shot - Assists: Jamie Langenbrunner, Zach Parise|
|17:22||Michel Ouellet (14), Slap Shot - Assist: Evgeni Malkin|
|05:33||Rafalski: Hooking - 2 min.|
|14:23||Ouellet: Hooking - 2 min.|
|18:38||Malkin: Hooking - 2 min.|
|01:53||Ouellet: Hooking - 2 min.|
|05:26||Gomez: Interference - 2 min.|
|15:48||Oduya: Delaying Game - 2 min.|
|06:49||Recchi: Slashing - 2 min.|
|02:11||Oduya: Unsportsmanlike Conduct - 2 min.|
|02:11||Malone: Hooking - 2 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|
|Goalie||MINS||S||GA||SO S||SO GA|
|Attendance - 17132|
|Referees - Paul Devorski, Chris Rooney|
|Linesmen - Jonny Murray, Tony Sericolo|