New Jersey Devils' Patrik Elias, of the Czech Republic, celebrates with Johnny Oduya (29), of Sweden, and Vladimir Zharkov, right, after Elias scored during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009 in Newark, N.J. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Bill Kostroun
NEWARK, N.J. - John Tavares, drafted first overall by the New York Islanders, has deservedly garnered most of the attention as the NHL's top rookie this season.
With little fanfare, Niclas Bergfors also is starting to make his mark.
Bergfors and Patrik Elias each scored two goals and Martin Brodeur made 22 saves to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 4-1 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday night.
Bergfors has 11 goals, second only to Tavares among rookies, and is coming into his own with five goals in the last seven games.
"When the goals start to come, it's a great feeling," Bergfors said. "You get more comfortable out there. We're winning a lot of games, so right now it's a very good feeling. I'm trying to shoot at the right time and use space more. It's a little bit of luck, too."
Brodeur sees a young player growing in confidence, thanks to the efforts of head coach Jacques Lemaire.
"He gets himself involved and he isn't shy about controlling the puck and making plays," Brodeur said. "I think sometimes as a young player, it's overwhelming to make plays and make mistakes. I think Jacques is doing a good job with him, teaching him how to take chances at the right time. He's got a sneaky shot."
Brian Rolston and Travis Zajac each added two assists for the Devils, winners of eight of their last 10 games.
Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers, who have only two wins in their last 12 games.
Bergfors scored a pair of power-play goals as the Devils jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead. The Swedish rookie put New Jersey on the board at 2:33, splitting the defence to beat Brian Boucher with a shot between the pads.
Bergfors struck again at 12:31, knocking in Travis Zajac's rebound.
Elias got the third goal at 15:47, the 300th of his career.
The score reflected the level of play in the period as the Devils outshot the Flyers 14-5. Brodeur preserved the shutout with a stellar glove stop on Arron Asham midway through.
Philadelphia played a much sharper second period, outshooting New Jersey 12-5. Brodeur, under considerably more pressure, twice robbed Jeff Carter. The second save was spectacular - Brodeur dove out of the crease to poke check the puck off Carter's stick on a short-handed breakaway bid.
Philadelphia's persistence finally paid off as Giroux netted a power-play goal on a sharp-angle shot from the left circle at 15:03.
The Flyers were back in the game, trailing only 3-1. Then came the backbreaker with 33.1 seconds left: Elias netting his second tally on a two-on-one break with Rolston for a 4-1 Devils lead.
For the Flyers, it was another in a string of lost nights that threaten to sink their season.
"We've got to take whatever we can out of tonight and use what little positives there were, and try to build on it," Chris Pronger said. "If you continue to beat yourself down, you only drive yourself further into a hole. We've got to pick one another up in here. We've got to start acting as team.
"At the end of the day, we have to play better. It's not good enough to keep it close. This is no fun."
Notes: The game concluded a busy stretch for both teams. The Flyers played four times in a span of six days while the Devils had three games in four nights. ... Elias is second on the Devils' goal list, trailing only John MacLean at 347. ... Flyers LW Dan Carcillo sat out the final contest of a four-game suspension handed down by the NHL for sucker-punching Washington's Matt Bradley. ... Brodeur had an assist on Bergfors' first goal.