<
>

Hats off: Elias nets three, dishes two in Devils' win

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- 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.

Andy Hilbert had two goals for the Penguins, and Sidney Crosby
and Jani Rita also scored.

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.

Game notes
The Devils swept the home-and-home series. They won 3-2 in
overtime at Pittsburgh on Sunday. The season series wrapped up 4-4.
... Elias is the Devils' career leader in hat tricks. John MacLean
had six. ... The Devils recalled G Frank Doyle from Albany of the
AHL. He replaced Scott Clemmensen, who was ill, as Brodeur's
backup. ... The Penguins started a four-game road trip that
continues to Florida, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. ... The Devils
were 3-for-7 on the power play.