Newark, NJ – Patrik Elias scored one of New Jersey's four second-period goals, as the Devils kept their playoff hopes alive with a 6-2 beatdown of the league-worst Florida Panthers on Saturday afternoon at Prudential Center.
Elias finished with two tallies and Martin Brodeur needed to make only 11 saves for the Devils, who trail the New York Rangers by six points for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers host the Devils on Sunday.
Travis Zajac had two assists for New Jersey, which snapped a team record-tying 10-game losing streak with Thursday's 3-0 triumph in Philadelphia. The slide began after the last time the club won consecutive games on March 21-23.
Star forward Ilya Kovalchuk suffered a right shoulder injury in the Devils' March 23 home victory against these same Panthers and finally returned to the lineup Saturday after an 11-game absence.
Jacob Markstrom stopped 27 shots in Florida's fifth straight loss, during which the club has surrendered 27 goals.
"I would hope not," Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell said when asked if some of his teammates have packed it in. "I know I haven't."
Knowing a regulation loss would have eliminated them from postseason contention, the Devils fought back from a two-goal first-period deficit.
"I think we played with a lot more intensity, just what we needed," Brodeur said. "We didn't do anything special. We just played with a little more intensity and were able to find a little offense for a change."
New Jersey was able to get on the board before the first intermission, capitalizing against the league's worst penalty-killing unit. Elias carried the puck across the blue line and made his way to the slot with ease before firing a shot between the right arm and body of Markstrom at 14:22.
The Devils erupted for four tallies in the middle frame, three of which were set up by Florida turnovers.
A giveaway by defenseman Dmitry Kulikov in the Florida zone led to Elias' second marker at 2:09. Another botched clearing attempt resulted in David Clarkson slipping the puck under Markstrom's left pad at 10:45.
After poking the puck behind Markstrom at 14:11, Ryan Carter forced a turnover just inside the offensive zone and fed Stephen Gionta, who beat Markstrom with a wrister on the blocker side.
The four goals New Jersey scored in the period matched Florida's shot total.
The Panthers mustered only two shots in the final frame, including rookie Quinton Howden's failed bid on a penalty shot in the opening minute.
Dainius Zubrus capped the scoring on a deflection at 10:28.
The Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals separated by 54 seconds.
With Carter off for slashing, Marcel Goc took a cross-ice feed from Tomas Fleischmann and beat Brodeur high on the glove side from the right circle at 6:11. Campbell then fired a shot from the left wing off the far post and behind Brodeur at 7:05.
Kovalchuk played almost 23 minutes and didn't register a point ... The six goals were the most by the Devils this season ... The Panthers were 1-for-2 on the power play ... The Devils won two of the three meetings this season, taking both in New Jersey.