NHL - Blackhawks end Jersey drought

Reuters - Sat, 03 Apr 05:32:00 2010

The Chicago Blackhawks won their first NHL game in New Jersey in more than 12 years with a 2-1 shootout victory over the Devils.

Chicago Blackhawks' Brent Sopel, left, and Andrew Ladd (16) celebrate with goaltender Antti Niemi, of Finland, after the Blackhawks beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in a shootout - 0

Jonathan Toews collected the only goal of the shootout after Chicago team-mate Kris Versteeg's goal with just 26 seconds left in regulation cancelled out Ilya Kovalchuk's first period opener and forced overtime.

The Blackhawks had not won in New Jersey since December 1997.

Both teams have clinched playoff spots, Chicago moving closer to sealing the Central Division title and New Jersey earning a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with idle Pittsburgh despite losing their third in a row.

Toews blasted the winner just over New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur's left glove.

"I know that sometimes he likes to put his glove there and flash the leather up high," Toews said.

"He'll give you the top glove and it's pretty appealing, so a lot of shooters shoot for it and he's waiting for it. I decided to take a chance."

Toews scored on the Blackhawks' first shootout opportunity against Brodeur, who finished with 25 saves. Chicago netminder Antti Niemi finished regulation and overtime with 32.

"He (Niemi) has been unbelievable all year for us," Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "He's won us some big games and he was great.

"He kept us in the game and gave our skilled forwards a chance to tie it," Seabrook added. "Then he played great in the shootout."

Versteeg's goal came from an off-balance slap shot that deflected off the stick and toe of defenseman Mike Mottau and went through the legs of Brodeur. Chicago had pulled Niemi in favour of an extra skater.

Brodeur said he was worried about the Devils giving up goals in the dying seconds of periods.

"It is a concern because I think we're going to play some tight games in the playoffs and losing games like that can change the momentum of a series," Brodeur said.

Kovalchuk's goal was his 40th of the season.


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