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Brodeur, Devils keep Thrashers winless on year

ATLANTA (AP) -- Martin Brodeur didn't get the shutout. He didn't
mind.

Brodeur came within 1.7 seconds of his first shutout of the
season, and the New Jersey Devils held on for a 2-1 victory over
the winless Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night.

Jeff Friesen put New Jersey ahead late in the first period.
Scott Gomez gave the Devils some insurance when he banged in a
rebound just over a minute into the third.

Brodeur was on the verge of celebrating a shutout until Ilya
Kovalchuk scored off a scramble in front of the net with 1.7
seconds remaining. The Thrashers pulled their goalie and gained a
two-man advantage when Friesen went off for high sticking.

"At least they didn't have time to score a goal to tie it up,''
Brodeur said. "Too bad it wasn't a shutout. But a win's a win at
this time of year.''

Atlanta wouldn't know anything about that. The Thrashers have
lost their first seven games, managing only one point with an
overtime defeat.

"I don't think we could have competed much harder,'' coach Curt
Fraser said. "We're not far away, but it seems like we have a
mountain to climb before we win a game.''

The Devils have won four of their first five games despite
scoring just 11 goals.

"We had a lot of scoring chances,'' coach Pat Burns said. "We
will get some finishes on these chances and have some more goals.''

Brodeur didn't have to make many tough saves as the Thrashers
continually fired high or wide on their best chances. He stopped 24
of 25 shots that did find their way on net.

Atlanta tightened its defense, which has allowed a league-high
31 goals. But the offense, which was averaging 3.3 goals per game,
couldn't break through against the Devils until it was too late.

"There's no question we should have won that game,'' Dany
Heatley said. "We had more than enough chances to finish it. We
were all over them in the second and third period.''

Kovalchuk's fifth goal of the season only meant the fifth
one-goal loss for the Thrashers in what is shaping up as another
dismal season.

"We've got to find a way to get one step better,'' Fraser said.
"We're just inches away from a win.''

Friesen scored his first goal at 14:38 of the first, taking
advantage when both Atlanta defensemen wound up together along the
boards after Slava Kozlov gave the puck away.

Gomez sent a pass to Friesen, who broke in alone down the middle
ahead of Kovalchuk and Patrik Stefan, both failing to cover on the
backcheck. Friesen fired a shot over the right shoulder of
goaltender Milan Hnlicka, who left the top of the net open by
flopping to the ice.

Gomez scored his first goal at 1:09 of the third, banging in a
rebound after Atlanta's Franticek Kaberle failed to clear the puck
in front of the net.

"It was right there,'' Gomez said. "I took a swipe at it and
it went in. It was good to get that first one out of the way.''

Hnlicka had 25 saves in one of his better efforts of the season.

"I felt really good, really confident,'' he said. "It's just a
matter of scoring a couple more goals and keeping it the same way
on the defensive side and it will turn around for us.''

Game notes
The announced crowd of 10,641 was the second-lowest in
Thrashers history. ... Atlanta D Uwe Krupp, who has played only one
game because of an ailing back, is expected to start skating soon.
But the team isn't sure when he'll rejoin the active roster. ...
The Devils played the fifth game in a stretch of 10 straight
against teams outside their division. ... The Thrashers wasted a
lengthy 5-on-3 advantage in the first period. ... There were three
fights in the opening 20 minutes. New Jersey's Turner Stevenson was
involved in two of them.