Hossa's Heroics Pay Off for Thrashers

The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 15, 2011; 10:52 PM

NEWARK, N.J. -- Not only are the New Jersey Devils winning almost every game, they starting to get the breaks, too.

Take a look at their 4-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night. New Jersey had two major pieces of good fortune in winning for the 23rd time in 28 games (23-3-2) and moving above the .500 mark (33-32-4) for the first time this season.

A goal that got them back into the game late in the first period went in off the skate of an Atlanta defenseman and then an apparent tying goal by the Thrashers late in the third was waved off by the officials for a high stick.

"It's pretty amazing what we've accomplished," said Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who preserved the win with two great saves in the final minute. "We've got ourselves in a fun situation that every game counts now. Thirty, 40 games ago, it was how are we going to play the second half? Are we just going to kill time to finish the season? We definitely are a long way from where we want to be, but it's fun."

Coupled with eighth-place Buffalo's 1-0 loss to Carolina, the Devils are now in 10th place, six points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand and 13 games to go.

On Jan. 8, they were the worst team in the conference, 27 points out of playoff spot.

"It's pretty unbelievable how we're winning these games," center Travis Zajac said. "At the same time, this is what was expected of us, to compete at a high level. Right now we're coming out ahead and that's the way it has to be for the rest of the season if we still want to make the playoffs."

The Devils didn't start the game looking as if they wanted to be in the playoffs.

Atlanta's Tim Stapleton and Chris Thorburn scored in a 65-second span in the first period for a 2-0 lead, and for a couple of minutes it looked like New Jersey was headed for a suddenly rare loss.

That's when luck entered the picture.

Zajac deflected a shot by defenseman Mark Fayne with just over a minute left in the period and it went past Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec after hitting off the skate of defenseman Ron Hainsey.

It woke the Devils up. Patrik Elias tied the game early in the second period on an odd-man rush and Jacob Josefson got the game winner early in the third period after being set up by fellow Swedish rookie Mattias Tedenby.

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