<
>

Devils win 10th straight, tie Flyers for one-point deficit to Rangers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New Jersey Devils improbable
goal of winning the Atlantic Division title is now within their
grasp.

Brian Gionta extended his points streak to 14 games and Patrik
Elias had two goals to lead the surging Devils to their 10th
straight win, 5-1 over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.

The Devils and Flyers each have 99 points, good for a
fifth-place tie in the Eastern Conference. Both are one point
behind the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers. The three
teams each have one game remaining.

It was a remarkable turnaround for the Devils, who were in
danger of missing the playoffs before beginning the streak.

"It was far-fetched to think about the title," Martin Brodeur
said after making 25 saves for his 42nd win. "We just went about
our business. It took us all these games in a row to put us in this
position."

Scott Gomez and Jamie Langenbrunner also scored for the Devils,
who own the longest winning streak in the NHL this season. The
Devils' all-time record is 13 straight wins from Feb. 26-March 23,
2001.

No one contributed more than Gionta, who has 10 goals and 12
assists in his 14-game streak.

"We focused in and wanted to finish strong in the last 10, 11
games," Gionta said. "We'll see what happens. Things still have
to happen for us to get the title. We just need to take care of
what we need to take care of."

Simon Gagne scored for the Flyers, who lost twice to the Devils
in a span of four days.

"We had a lot of shots but we didn't have a lot of great
chances," Flyers forward Mike Knuble said. "They did a great job
of keeping us to the outside. They've won a lot of games and here
they are."

Gionta and Elias scored first-period goals to stake the Devils
to a 2-0 lead.

Gionta put in his own rebound at 5:56 for his 46th goal, tying
the Devils' season mark set by Pat Verbeek in the 1987-88 season.

Gionta took a feed from Gomez and fired a close-in shot on
Robert Esche, who made the initial stop. The puck landed behind the
goalie and Gionta backhanded the rebound into the net before Esche
could recover.

Elias connected from the right circle late in the period as he
took a blue-line feed from Brad Lukowich and hit the far side of
the goal.

Gomez scored at 2:24 of the second to increase the Devils lead
to 3-0. Esche was replaced by Antero Niittymaki following that
goal.

"They've got everything working for them right now," Esche
said. "They are really clicking."

The goalie change provided a quick spark for the Flyers as Gagne
got his 46th goal 30 seconds later.

The Flyers' hopes for a comeback victory faded when
Langenbrunner put New Jersey up 4-1. In the third, Elias scored his
second goal to increase the lead to 5-1.

"Everyone is doing their job right now," Elias said. "We're
doing the things we have to do and we're playing good hockey. We're
feeling good about ourselves."

Game notes
Elias' first goal was his 500th career point. ... Devils C
Sergei Brylin played in his 600th game. ... The Flyers scratched C
Peter Forsberg for the fifth time in the last six games. He
returned Saturday in the Flyers' 4-1 win over the New York Rangers
after missing four games with a groin injury. ... Gionta's scoring
streak is one shy of the club record set by Elias in the 1999-2000
season. ... The Devils took the season series from the Flyers 5-3.
... Lukowich had three assists. ... Devils defenseman Colin White
injured his groin and did not return for the third period.