Petr Sykora potted a pair and Martin Brodeur nearly netted one of his own. In the end, the Devils got what they needed with Wednesday's 3-1 win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres.
A sellout crowd of 17,625 packed Prudential Center and saw Sykora notch his first two-goal game as a Devil since April 7, 2002. Zach Parise also scored for New Jersey, which jumped out to a 3-0 lead en route to its sixth win in its last eight outings.
Sykora was assisted both times by Patrik Elias and became the seventh Devil to tally at least 10 goals this season.
"It's been a lot of fun," Sykora said. "We kind of read off each other and every single guy brings something different. It's been fun. Every single game has been fun for me."
It was his first two-goal game since Jan. 28, 2009, when he lit the lamp twice against the Rangers while skating for Pittsburgh. Clearly, he hasn't lost his scoring touch.
He attended training camp as a tryout and has found a role as a top six forward.
"I didn't know a lot about him, obviously, watching him from afar," said coach Peter DeBoer. "But having been in the organization before, Lou [Lamoriello] knew him well, [assistant coach] Adam Oates knew him well having played with him [in Anaheim]. Those guys were confident he could help us, and he's really grown on me. He's a seasoned vet, he shows up, he works hard, he does the right things, he's great with the young guys. He's filled a real big void for us there on the top two lines."
Sykora had two opportunities for the hat trick. Ryan Miller got a piece of his shot from the slot after an endboard carom 3:42 into the second, then robbed him with six minutes to go in the middle frame off a feed from Adam Henrique.
He recorded his only three-goal game on Dec. 11, 2008, while a member of the Rangers.
"Of course it's on the back of your mind," Sykora said. "Why not? I wasn't like, 'I have to score, I have to score,' I was just thinking, if I get a chance, put it in. Yeah, I was thinking about it."
Brodeur set up Sykora's first of the night, a shot from the top of the right circle that went off Robyn Regehr's skate and trickled past Miller for a 1-0 lead at 9:52 of the first.
Brodeur's pass sent Sykora and Elias in on a 2-on-2.
"We brought him in to make a difference offensively," Brodeur said. "I think that's what the team was looking for. I think he's got to keep it going. We're definitely happy to be able to count on a guy that's at the right spot at the right time."
Brodeur's stickhandling is nothing new to Sykora.
"He does that in practice all the time when we're doing breakouts," Sykora said. "He always gives me those passes through the middle. He's great with the puck, what can I say?"
It was Brodeur's third assist of the season, 39th of his career.
"That's good for some forwards," said Sykora. "He actually could have had one [goal] and one [assist] tonight, so that's a great game for every forward. He's one of the best with the puck and he's proven it over and over again."
The Devils (20-15-1) rebounded from Monday's 4-2 loss in Carolina.
"That's exactly what the doctor ordered, so to speak, that's what we needed," DeBoer said. "We needed to show up and play a solid team game, to get some goals, to get a good game out of Marty and to play a good third period. A couple of power-play goals and it would've been a perfect night."
Brodeur made 22 saves for his 10th win and had three cracks at the empty net. He missed wide left with a minute to go, then had two attempts intercepted by Sabres.
"It's pretty rare when they throw the puck at you three times when the net is empty," Brodeur said. "At least I had to try with a two-goal lead."
Sykora made it 2-0 just 1:26 into the second. Dainius Zubrus pressured Regehr and Andrej Sekera into turning the puck over in the corner, and Elias found Sykora in the slot for his 10th.
Buffalo's Luke Adam beat Brodeur with a redirection at 5:28, but video review confirmed the on-ice call of a stick above the crossbar.
"I wasn't really sure," Brodeur said. "I'm looking up to the puck because I'm going down to my knees, so I wasn't sure. They showed a quick replay and it looked good."
Just over a minute later, Parise deflected a right-point blast by Mark Fayne for a 3-0 Devils advantage. Parise's 12th put the Devils in the driver's seat.
"The third goal is always a nice one to get," Parise said. "I guess it's a little breathing room. Two-goal leads are always tough. I thought we did a good job in the third of holding on to that lead and really not giving them too many opportunities."
A scrum at 7:12 of the second started with Eric Boulton putting a big hit on Sekera. Cody McCormick went after Boulton and six different players would combine for 46 penalty minutes. Boulton received minors for roughing and boarding, resulting in a Buffalo power play. Thomas Vanek capitalized to cut the Devils' lead to 3-1.
Notes and quotes
Brodeur admitted that Cam Ward's credited goal against the Devils on Monday had him thinking about scoring.
"A lot of people have been talking about goals lately for goalies because of Cam getting rewarded with his goal," he said. "Might as well try for it."
His first shot attempt was actually a pass.
"The first one, I didn't want to shoot it," Brodeur said. "I wanted to pass it to Patty, but I wanted to pass it in the air. I didn't want to leave it on the ice, not knowing what was going on."
• Adam Larsson returned after missing two games to attend his grandmother's funeral in Sweden. He logged 20:04 of ice time on 24 shifts.
"Real good," DeBoer said. "He was moving his feet, he was physical. We missed him when he was gone. That's a good sign for a -year-old kid."
1 - 0 NJD
2 - 0 NJD
3 - 0 NJD
3 - 1 NJD
Holding the stick