Ilya Kovalchuk had three goals and an assist, and Martin Brodeur stopped 29 shots in leading the New Jersey Devils to a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
Petr Sykora broke a 1-1 tie 1:44 into the third period, and the Devils extended their road winning streak to five – their best stretch since winning five straight last February.
The Devils, sixth in the Eastern Conference, are 6-1-2 in their past nine games. They are one point behind division rivals Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Kovalchuk completed his hat trick with an empty-netter with 9 seconds left.
Jason Pominville scored for the Sabres, who have lost two straight following a 5-0-1 run. Buffalo (24-26-6) is 14th in the East and is fading out of playoff contention.
The Devils, who never trailed, continued to get production from their power-play unit which went 2 for 7.
After failing to register a shot during a 47-second, two-man advantage, the Devils capitalized while Sabres defenseman Mike Weber was still in the penalty box for cross-checking.
Sykora had the puck in the right circle and snapped a shot that deflected off the stick of Buffalo defenseman Andrej Sekera and bounced in over goalie Ryan Miller’s right shoulder.
Kovalchuk sealed the win 8:03 later by redirecting rookie Adam Henrique’s pass to cap a 2-on-1 break after Sekera misplayed the puck at the Devils’ blue line.
Kovalchuk opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the final minute of the first period by completing a perfectly executed give-and-go with Patrik Elias that had the Sabres scrambling.
They have converted 10 of their past 33 opportunities over nine games.
Pominville extended his point streak to five games (four goals, two assists) by tying the game at 1 with 2:41 left in the second period. Getting the puck along the end boards, Pominville fed a no-look pass in front that bounced off a Devils defender and flipped over Brodeur’s right shoulder.
Brodeur was otherwise sharp in improving to 5-1-1 in his past seven starts, a stretch in which he has allowed 12 goals.
His best save came with 2:30 left, when he got his glove out to stop Derek Roy’s shot from the right of the net. Brodeur also twice robbed Brad Boyes in the first period. The first chance came 4 minutes in, after Brodeur stopped Zack Kassian’s attempt to redirect a pass in front. The puck came back to Boyes in the slot, where he snapped a shot that was stopped by Brodeur.
Eight minutes later, Brodeur made a big grab to turn aside Boyes’ slap shot from 30 feet.
NOTES: Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was back behind the bench for the first time in a week since he broke three ribs during a collision with a player in practice. After spending the past three games watching from the press box, Ruff said he intended to wear a flak jacket to protect his still sore ribs. … Devils LW Stephane Veilleux made his debut with the team after being called up from AHL Albany. Veilleux played in Europe last season, and last played in the NHL with Tampa Bay in April 2010. … The Sabres finished a four-game homestand and will play at Philadelphia on Thursday. They will then kick off another stretch of four straight at home.