New Jersey in playoffs for seventh straight year

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Playing the New York Rangers was
just what the New Jersey Devils needed to get back on track and
clinch a playoff berth.

Patrik Elias' goal and assist helped New Jersey gain a seventh
straight berth and hurt the New York Rangers' chances of getting to
the postseason with a 3-1 victory Saturday.

"All you read about is how desperate the Rangers are and how
close they are to getting into the playoffs," center John Madden
said. "It's been going on for three weeks now. We knew what the
game meant to them but more importantly what it meant to us."

In some ways, the Devils were as desperate as the Rangers, who
are in danger of missing the playoffs for a team-record six
straight years. New Jersey had lost two straight and four of five,
a slide that allowed Philadelphia to creep to within two point of
first place in the Atlantic Division.

The Flyers, who beat Pittsburgh 4-1 on Saturday, and Devils will
play here Monday night.

"We had to get this game first before we dealt with the
Flyers," said Devils captain Scott Stevens. "We know they have
Pittsburgh a few more times and Pittsburgh's been struggling
lately. We definitely needed this game to stay ahead of them and
now we have a big four-point game with them Monday night.

Stevens and Pascal Rheaume iced the game with third-period
goals, and Martin Brodeur made 16 saves, including a great one in
the second period on former teammate Bobby Holik that kept the
Devils ahead.

Matthew Barnaby scored for the Rangers, who have nine games left
to move ahead of Montreal and the New York Islanders into the final
spot in the Eastern Conference.

Since a season-high five-game unbeaten streak, New York has just
one point in its last three games.

"I guess the easy thing to say was that it wasn't a good
effort," Rangers captain Mark Messier said. "A lot of that has to
do with the Devils. They played a solid defensive game, but some of
it has to do with us. We're not without criticism."

New Jersey never trailed Saturday in a game in which they killed
off all four Rangers power plays and scored on one of them.

Elias, who had not had a multiple point game since Feb. 4, gave
the Devils the lead for good at 3:04 of the second period with a
shot that should have been stopped by goalie Mike Dunham.

Defenseman Scott Niedermayer got the puck behind the Rangers'
net and he passed the puck to Elias low in the right circle. Dunham
moved away from the goal post as Elias took his shot and the puck
hit off his shoulder and went into the net.

Brodeur kept it 1-0 by using the edge of his catching glove to
stop Holik on a 2-on-1 with Messier with 6:10 left in the second

"He has been watching me score a lot of goals for 10 years,"
Holik said of Brodeur. "He knows where I shoot. The games we've
played, he's been their best player."

New Jersey put the game away with two goals in the first 4:16 of
the third period.

Elias set up Rheaume's short-handed goal with a no-look pass
from behind the Rangers' net at 1:47. Stevens stretched the lead to
3-0 with a shot from the point at 4:16.

Barnaby scored 16 seconds later, but it could not prevent the
Devils from continuing their domination of the Rangers. Since the
1996-97 season, New Jersey is 19-2-12 against New York.

Game notes
The Devils and the NHL honored Joe Nieuwendyk before the
game for getting his 500th goal and 1,000th point. ... The three
previous games between the teams this season finished in ties. ...
The Devils are 29-6-4-1 when scoring first. ... The crowd of 19,040
was the Devils' second sellout of the season, both against the
Rangers. ... Dunham is 1-6-2 against the Devils.