Series (Game 4 of 4)

New Jersey leads 3-1

Game 1: Saturday, November 24th
Game 2: Friday, December 14th
Game 3: Wednesday, January 23rd
Game 4: Monday, March 25th

Panthers 1

(19-41-5, 50 pts)

Devils 3

(33-26-4, 79 pts)

7:30 PM ET, March 25, 2002

IZOD Center, East Rutherford, New Jersey

1 2 3 T
FLA 0 1 01
NJ 0 1 23

P. Elias (Devils - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

J. Nieuwendyk (Devils - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

J. Langenbrunner (Devils - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Devils hold Panthers to 15 shots on goal

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- For at least one game, the New Jersey Devils found a new top line.

Joe Nieuwendyk

Joe Nieuwendyk set up goals by linemates Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner to lead the Devils to a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

"Jamie plays extremely hard and Joey is a smart player, so it looks like we can get something going here," Elias said. "We just have to stay healthy."

The Devils broke up their top line of Elias, Petr Sykora and Jason Arnott last week when Arnott was traded to Dallas in a deal that brought Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner to New Jersey.

Elias missed their first two games with the Devils because of the flu and he played on another line Saturday.

Coach Kevin Constantine put him with Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner on Monday and the decision yielded instant benefits.

"We're pleased with today and we have another one in a couple of nights, so it was a good start for us," said Nieuwendyk, who has one goal and four assists in four games with New Jersey.

Constantine isn't sure whether Elias will stay on the line.

Sykora has missed the last four games with the flu, and it is uncertain where he will play when he returns.

Langenbrunner snapped a 1-1 tie just 18 seconds into the third period by putting in the rebound of Elias' shot.

John Madden added a breakaway goal in the final minute, and the Devils limited Florida to 15 shots against Martin Brodeur in winning for the sixth time in eight games, and sending the Panthers to their fifth straight loss.

"I feel really fortunate playing with two world-class players like that," Langenbrunner said of his new linemates. "We had a lot of opportunities tonight. With luck, we could have had a few more (goals)."

Coupled with the New York Islanders' 4-2 win over the New York Rangers, the Devils stayed two points behind the Islanders in the race for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

New Jersey has 10 games left, one fewer than the Islanders.

Ivan Novoseltsev scored a short-handed goal for Florida, which extended its franchise-record road losing streak to nine games. Only a spectacular 34-save performance by Trevor Kidd kept the game close.

"I'm trying to get the game into the third period to give us a chance to win," Kidd said. "I've done that the last three games."

Elias gave the Devils a 1-0 lead at 27 seconds of the second period with a super 1-on-1 move. Nieuwendyk set up the power-play goal with a cross-ice pass. Kidd came out of the net to challenge Elias, but he was deked out of position. Elias stuffed the puck into an open net for his 24th goal.

The Devils had a great chance to expand the lead when Panthers defenseman Brad Ference got a double minor for high-sticking Jim McKenzie at 7:00.

However, Olli Jokinen caused Elias to turn the puck over at the Panthers blue line, right after the faceoff, and Novoseltsev beat Brodeur on a breakaway. His backhander hit the goalpost, caromed off Brodeur's back and crawled into the net for Novoseltsev's first career short-handed goal.

Madden scored with 30 seconds left.

Elias, Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner were put together late Saturday in a 4-2 loss to Carolina.

Game notes

Devils center Bobby Holik was suspended for the game for a hit on Rod Brind'Amour on Saturday. Scott Gomez took over at center and Valeri Kamensky played the wing on his line. ... Sykora missed his fourth straight game with the flu. ... The Panthers got the best of Devils tough guy Jim McKenzie in two fights. Rocky Thompson had an edge in a first-period fight, and then Peter Worrell pounded him in the second. ... The Panthers' previous worst road-losing streak was seven in 1998.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press