Gomez, Brylin strike in third period as Devils beat Thrashers 2-1

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Gomez and Sergei Brylin scored power-play goals 28 seconds apart in the third period to lead the Devils to a 2-1 win that snapped New Jersey's six-game losing streak against the Southeast Division-leading Thrashers. "Everybody did a good job," Gomez said. "Especially against a team like Atlanta.

"They are the real deal. We had to prove to ourselves that we could beat that team."

Martin Brodeur made 25 saves and New Jersey won for the fourth time in five games.

"They didn't give us much out there," Devils coach Claude Julien said. "We had to work for every inch we got.

"It was important for us to stay focused and stay patient. We were one shot away from getting back into the game."

The victory gave the Atlantic Division-leading Devils 56 points, pulling them even with the Thrashers for second in the Eastern Conference.

Scott Mellanby scored for the Thrashers, who tied a season high with their fifth straight loss. Atlanta held the lead entering the third period in each of the last four defeats.

The Devils made the most of a 5-on-3 advantage, scoring the tying and winning goals against Kari Lehtonen during the power play.

Gomez tied it with 8:53 left on a play that began with Brian Rafalski taking a shot from the point. Lehtonen made the initial save, and Brian Gionta swiped at the rebound before Gomez knocked it in.

Brylin scored the go-ahead goal from the slot, converting a setup pass from Travis Zajac.

"New Jersey doesn't make too many mistakes and they have a good power play," Lehtonen said. "We had been doing a very good job against them but the third period was pretty bad for us with the penalties."

Atlanta's goal came late in the first period. Mellanby, who had missed 10 games with an upper body injury, celebrated his return by scoring at 17:12.

Mellanby deflected Ilya Kovalchuk's point shot over Brodeur just as an Atlanta power play expired.

"Scott is comparable to (Tomas) Holmstrom in Detroit and Gary Roberts in Florida," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "They make a living in front of the net.

"They make it tough on the other team's defencemen and they make it tough on the goalies."

While officially an even-strength goal, the score capped an extended period of man-advantage time for the Thrashers. The Devils fell into penalty trouble when Brodeur was whistled for slashing Jon Sim at 12:44.

Brodeur put the Devils in an even deeper hole with a delay of game penalty that was whistled when he shot the puck over the glass 21 seconds later.

New Jersey did an excellent job of killing the 5-on-3, allowing only a shot by defenceman Greg de Vries.

The Devils' weary penalty killers were pressed back into action when Eric Rasmussen was called for holding the stick at 15:12. New Jersey killed that one, as well, but Mellanby scored before Rasmussen could rejoin the action.

The Devils pressed for the tying goal in the scoreless second period, outshooting the Thrashers 11-6. Lehtonen was equal to the task, frustrating New Jersey linemates Gomez and Patrik Elias, who combined for seven shots.

Notes: Devils D Colin White returned from an eight-game absence (groin). ... The Devils were still short-handed on defence with Johnny Oduya and Alex Brooks sidelined. New Jersey placed Brooks on the long-term injury list with a fractured foot and called up Andy Greene from Lowell (AHL). ... Thrashers D Braydon Coburn sustained cuts to his face during a second-period fight with Devils LW Mike Rupp and didn't return.


David Perron

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