Petr Sykora scored two goals and Martin Brodeur stopped 22 shots as the New Jersey Devils topped the visiting Buffalo Sabres 3-1, Wednesday night at Prudential Center. Patrik Elias assisted on both of Sykora's goals, one of which was his 500th career assist. The two were integral parts of the Devils' 2000 Stanley Cup championship team as linemates.
Sykora opened the scoring midway through the first period. Brodeur started the sequence, sending a bullet of an outlet pass up the middle to and onto the stick of Elias at center ice. Elias skated the puck into the Buffalo zone, then left a drop pass for Sykora, who appeared to attempt to send a return feed to Elias. The shot came through a screen inadvertently provided by Buffalo defenseman Robyn Regehr in front and trickled through Sabres' starter Ryan Miller, who made a failed last-ditch diving attempt to stop the puck at the goal line, for his ninth goal of the season at 9:52. The assist for Brodeur was his third of the season.
The Devils doubled their lead early in the second period, and it was the dynamic duo again doing the honors. After Dainius Zubrus forced a turnover, Elias set up Sykora for a one-timer, which beat Miller for his 10th of the year at 1:26 of the middle frame. The 35-year-old Elias, New Jersey's leading scorer, hit the career 500-assist milestone with the helper on Sykora's second of the evening.
There was a two-goal swing in the next few minutes that was pivotal to the eventual outcome of the contest. Buffalo appeared to have cut the lead to 2-1 when Brayden McNabb's point shot was deflected past Brodeur by Luke Adam. The goal was waived off by the officials, however, as it was determined that Adam's stick was above the crossbar, therefore making it a high stick. After a brief video review, the on-ice call was upheld by the war room in Toronto.
Less than two minutes later, Zach Parise made it a 3-0 Devils lead with his 12th goal of the season.
After a melee that resulted in four players being assessed 10-minute misconducts and a Buffalo power play, Thomas Vanek was able get the Sabres on the board with his 18th goal of the year. Vanek gathered the puck in front of Brodeur and kicked it to his stick before sending a shot behind the New Jersey netminder at the 7:41 mark.
But the two-goal swing proved to be too much for the struggling Sabres to overcome, as they are now just 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. Miller continued to struggle as he made 20 saves on 23 Devils' shots, and dropped the third decision in his last four (1-3-0). He did keep the game close in the third, making an arm save on rookie Adam Henrique on a breakaway to keep Buffalo within striking distance.
Brodeur won his second straight contest, and is 4-1-0 in his last five decisions. The future Hall-of-Famer was at his puckhandling best and even took several shots at the empty net late in regulation with a two-goal lead and Miller pulled for an extra attacker, with one going wide of the net for an icing, and a couple of others blocked along the way.