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Devils Stay In First Place

Home ice finally felt pretty good for the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils, who have struggled at home this season, were pretty sure they had turned the corner with a 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

"We all hope so," goaltender Martin Brodeur said.

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  • The Devils are the top road team in the NHL at 24-9-2, but have struggled to stay above .500 at the Continental Airlines Arena where they are 15-13-7.

    Trailing 3-2 heading into the third period, the Devils totally dominated the final 20 minutes to record one of their most satisfying home victories. They got goals from Brad Bombardir, Petr Sykora with the game winner and Patrik Elias as they outshot Pittsburgh 17-1 in the period.

    Brodeur could not recall a better home-ice third period this season.

    "This year has been tough in the third period for us," Brodeur said. "We've not played as well as we wanted. Allowing only one shot was a tremendous effort. You're not going to see that too often against the forwards that they have."

    The Penguins were a confident bunch entering the game. They put together a seven-game unbeaten streak (4-0-3) that carried them within one point of the Atlantic Division-leading Devils. They started strong, taking a 3-2 lead in the first period that stood up until Bombardir tied the game at 5:22 of the third.

    "We were playing for first place tonight and everybody was pumped for the game," said Matthew Barnaby, one of the Penguins' goal scorers. "Once we got that lead, we started to play passive. This was a big game for us and we didn't do what we had to do."

    Jason Arnott had a goal and two assists for the Devils and Randy McKay also scored for New Jersey, which stopped a two-game winless streak (0-1-1).

    Martin Brodeur and the Devils were able to cool off the hot Penguins.
    Martin Brodeur and the Devils were able to cool off the hot Penguins. (AP)

    Alexei Kovalev and Jan Hrdina had the other Pittsburgh goals.

    Sykora broke a 3-3 tie with a power-play score at 11:28. Arnott fired a slap shot from the blue line that Peter Skudra blocked with his pads, but he was unable to stop Sykora from rifling home the rebound.

    Elias added an empty-net score with 22.6 seconds remaining.

    With the Penguins leading 3-2 in the third period, Bombardir scored his first goal of the season, and only the second of his career, at 5:22 on a slap shot from the left point.

    Kovalev got the Penguins off to a 1-0 lead at 7:55 of the first only to see the Devils score the next two goals. McKay got the first New Jersey score at 11:05 on a slap shot from the top of the right circle. Arnott put the Devils ahead 2-1 with a power-play goal at 12:58.

    Hrdina tied it with a shot in close, and Barnaby put the Penguins ahead 3-2 with a power-play goal at 17:53. NHL-leading scorer Jaromir Jagr assisted on the play, extending his consecutive point-scoring streak to nine.

    "It feels really good because we have not played well at home," Sykora said. "We've been playing great on the road. Hopefully this will get us going at home."

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