It was another low-scoring game for the New Jersey Devils. This time they won, however.
"It NHL features:
was really an important game for us," Patrick Elias said after scoring the winning goal in the Devils' 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers Friday night.
"It looked like we didn't have a system (in two previous losses) and didn't know what we were doing. We talked about it before tonight, and everyone worked hard."
The Devils had scored only two goals in losing their first two games of the season. The Rangers were no better with three goals in losing their first three.
"I would say that scoring four goals in four games is not enough," Rangers coach John Muckler said after New York opened the season 0-4 for the first time since 1959.
"We had the opportunity to win the game and we didn't score. They gave us several power-play opportunities, but we didn't take advantage of them."
Goaltender Martin Brodeur came up with a big game as the Devils avoided losing three straight at the start of a season for the first time in their history.
The Devils, 6-0-4 against the Rangers in their last 10 meetings, killed seven power plays with Brodeur stopping 24 shots overall. Brodeur made two big saves in the third period when he stopped breakaways by Kevin Stevens with about 17 minutes remaining and Niklas Sundstrom with less than 13 minutes left.
That stop seemed to be the turning point for the Devils, who provided Robbie Ftorek his first victory as head coach at New Jersey.
"I saw Sundstrom coming in and I thought, `It looks like it's going t be his night tonight. I have to try to spoil it,"' Brodeur said.
"He made a good shot. I just tried to keep my pads together. Fortunately, the puck stayed with me instead of going back out to him."
Rookie Dan Cloutier, starting in place of No. 1 goalie Mike Richter, made 28 saves in a strong performance for the Rangers.
Bobby Holik gave the Devils a 1-0 lead 22 seconds into the game, scoring after Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch lost control of the puck in front of his own net while trying to clear. Dave Andreychuk picked up the puck and fed it to Holik, who beat Cloutier to his right.
Sundstrom tied it for New York when he beat Brodeur from the top of the left circle at 6:09. Elias finally broke the 1-1 tie at 10:53 of the third period when he poked in his own rebound in the crease with a backhander while falling down.
"Cloutier made a save, I jumped over him and just put in the rebound," Elias said. "(The puck) went under his arm."
The game marked the first time that two referees worked a regular-season game. The NHL is using two refs in selective games this season in hopes of better policing penalties.
With refs Denis Larue and Mark Faucette monitoring the play, there were a total of nine power plays -- seven for the Rangers and two for the Devils.
"I was in the way all night," Faucette said. "I got through it. I would say it was fair, for the first time. I knocked Wayne Gretzky (down) and I thought the Rangers were going to come after me."
Gretzky was more concerned with the loss.
"Losing is always frustrating and we don't enjoy it," he said. "We've played four games and scored four goals. We've got to find a way to score."
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved