Devils 6, Panthers 2

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 20, 2013
Patrik Elias scored twice and the New Jersey Devils kept their faint playoff hopes alive by rallying from a two-goal deficit for a 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday. David Clarkson, whose big check seemed with wake up the Devils after they fell behind 2-0, tallied the go-ahead goal in a game where they welcomed back offensive catalyst Ilya Kovalchuk to the lineup after missing 11 games with a shoulder injury. Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Dainius Zubrus also scored as New Jersey won its second in a row after a 10-game losing streak (0-6-4). Marcel Goc and Brian Campbell scored for the NHL-worst Panthers, who have lost five straight. The Devils, the defending Eastern Conference champions, came into the game knowing that if they lost in regulation, they would not make the playoffs. Things didn't look good when the Panthers scored twice in the opening 7:05 against Martin Brodeur. Despite its dismal record, Florida was 10-3-2 in games it scored first and New Jersey was 3-16-6 when the opposition went ahead. In this game, it didn't matter. The Devils won going away, getting four goals on 17 shots against Jacob Markstrom in the second period. A big hit by Clarkson on Campbell midway through the first period seemed to ignite the Devils, and it eventually led to a power play. Elias closed the gap to 2-1 by splitting the defense and beating Markstrom with a shot from between the circles. He tied the score early in the second period after Travis Zajac blocked a clearing pass and sent the puck to Clarkson, who found Elias coming down the middle for his 13th goal of the season. Clarkson gave the Devils a 3-2 lead at 10:45 of the second period on a similar play. Alexei Ponikarovsky stopped a clearing pass at the point and sent the puck to Zajac, who found Clarkson alone in the middle. Carter scored in close at 14:11 for a 4-2 lead, and he made a steal at the blue line to set up Gionta for a 5-2 lead. Zubrus closed out the scoring in the third period on a power play. Brodeur, who only faced 13 shots, prevented any chance of a Florida comeback, making a pad save on a penalty shot by Quinton Howden 39 seconds into the third period. The return of Kovalchuk didn't yield any help offensively for New Jersey. He had a couple of chances but didn't have a point in the game. He was on the ice when the Panthers took their lead. Goc's second in three games was on the power play and it was set up by an excellent cross-ice pass from Tomas Fleischmann. Brodeur didn't have a chance to stop the shot under the crossbar. Campbell's first goal in 12 games came just 55 seconds later. Mike Weaver passed the puck from the right point to his defense partner on the left side and his shot from the top of the circle found the upper corner of the net. NOTES: The national anthem was sung by the Blue Collar Quartet, with the singers wearing the jerseys of the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins to honor the city of Boston. ...Cheers of ''Kovy, Kovy, Kovy'' greeted Kovalchuk on his first shift. ...Brodeur, who was making his 14th straight start, got an assist on Elias' goal and now has a goal and two assists this season. ...Elias' power-play goal was the Devils first in last 23 attempts. ...Florida has been outscored 17-5 in its last three games
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