NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Jonathan Toews scored the only shootout goal and Antti Niemi made 32 saves as the Chicago Blackhawks moved a step closer to the Central Division title with a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
Niemi only had to make one save during the shootout, but it was a magnificent pad stop on Zach Parise after Toews beat Martin Brodeur with a wrist shot on Chicago's first shot.
Jamie Langenbrunner never got his shot off, and Ilya Kovalchuk missed the net with a backhander as the Devils lost their third straight. New Jersey still moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division with idle Pittsburgh.
Kris Versteeg scored the tying goal for Chicago with 26 seconds left in regulation when his shot from the edge of the right circle hit the skate of Devils defenseman Mike Mottau and went between Brodeur's legs.
Kovalchuk scored his 40th of the season in the first period.
There were no penalties called in the game. It was the first penalty-free game in Devils history, the team said, and the first in the NHL since March 28, 2001, when Boston faced Toronto.
The Blackhawks, with 103 points, moved within three points of clinching the division with five games left. Chicago leads Nashville by seven points.
Brodeur and the Devils were on the verge of a 1-0 win that would have given the goalie his 109th career shutout before Versteeg tied it.
Chicago pulled Niemi with a little over a minute to play and the Blackhawks kept the puck in the Devils' zone for about 20 seconds. Versteeg's shot hit the tip of Mottau's skate and went in.
Niemi made two good saves in overtime, stopping Dean McAmmond in close with three minutes to go and making an outstanding glove save on Parise with 2:03 left.
Brodeur came up big against Dustin Byfuglien with 1:31 left in the extra period, but it wasn't enough to prevent Chicago from winning in New Jersey for the first time since 1997.
In losing their last two games to Philadelphia and Boston, the Devils started out slow. Against the Blackhawks, New Jersey came out fast and took 11 of the first 13 shots.
Kovalchuk put the Devils ahead at 5:49, taking a pass from Patrik Elias and beating Niemi with a shot from behind the circles. It marked his fifth straight 40-goal season and sixth overall in the NHL.
Byfuglien had Chicago's best scoring chance in the first period. He took a pass from Patrick Sharp about 30 feet straight on and ripped a shot that forced Brodeur to make a pad save that had the crowd chanting, "Mar-ty, Mar-ty, Mar-ty."
Brodeur also was lucky. He gave away the puck late in the period, giving Tomas Kopecky a shot at an open net. Defenseman Martin Skoula bailed out Brodeur by blocking the shot.
Chicago had only seven shots in the second period but Brodeur had to make a good stop on a blast by Dave Bolland in the opening minute and a glove save on a slap shot by Niklas Hjalmarsson seconds after a tip by Toews went just wide.
NOTES: Devils C Dainius Zubrus didn't play due to an illness. ... C John Madden's played his first game in New Jersey since he signed with the Blackhawks last summer. Madden played 11 seasons with the Devils and won the Stanley Cup twice. ...For the second straight Devils game, officials didn't call a penalty in the opening two periods. ...The Devils had their sixth sellout in the last nine games.