RALEIGH, N.C. - With Patrick Elias finally finding his scoring touch, the New Jersey Devils might have an offence that is as prolific as their defence is stingy.
The star winger scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, and Martin Brodeur made 20 saves in New Jersey's 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
After a slow start to the season - six goals in his first 32 games - Elias has scored four times in his last seven games.
He gave New Jersey the lead for good after the Devils' Jamie Langenbrunner made a nice play to stay on side at the blue-line. Elias then skated down the left side and slapped the puck past Carolina goalie Cam Ward from the near the faceoff circle.
"It happened quick," Elias said. "I knew the pass was there and I just let it go and it went in."
New Jersey has won seven of its last nine and leads the Atlantic Division by a point over Pittsburgh. As always, Brodeur is a big reason why - the Devils have allowed just 99 goals this season, the only team in the Eastern Conference that has yielded fewer than 100.
Brodeur has allowed two goals or less in seven of his last eight games.
"It was one of our good games," Brodeur said. "We just did the right things out there. We got the first goal again."
Travis Zajac, Brian Gionta and Sergei Brylin also scored for New Jersey. Langenbrunner and Zach Parise each had two assists.
Keith Aucoin scored his first NHL goal for the Hurricanes, who have lost three straight at home. Carolina still leads Atlanta in the Southeast Division by four points, but it has scored only two goals in its last three games.
"We need to score more than one goal," defenceman Mike Commodore said. "I'd like to shut teams out every night, but it probably isn't going to happen."
RW Trevor Letowski, D Glen Wesley, LW Ray Whitney and D Wade Brookbank missed the game for Carolina with the flu, leaving the Hurricanes with only 17 skaters. They joined RW Justin Williams (knee), D Bret Hedican (knee), D David Tanabe (concussion), C Matt Cullen (concussion) and RW Scott Walker (knee) on the Hurricanes' injured list.
Carolina coach Peter Laviolette wasn't using the absences as an excuse, however.
"We were gross," he said. "I don't know - it's frustrating. When you step on to the ice, it's about competing in a lot of different areas: It's about competing in your skating; it's about competing in the physical play; it's about being mentally ready; it's about playing smart, playing hard, fighting for pucks. We did none of it. If we did do it, we lost in all areas.
"It's completely unacceptable."
Carolina's lethargic home penalty-killing unit, ranked last in the league (72.2 per cent success rate at home), put the team in trouble in the first period when Zajac knocked a centring pass from Langenbrunner behind a helpless Ward for the first goal. Gionta's third-period goal also came with the man advantage.
The Hurricanes tied the score when Dennis Seidenberg skated over the blue line in the second period and wristed a shot on goal. Aucoin quickly skated to the front of the net and chipped the rebound past Brodeur.
Aucoin had been recalled from Albany along with C Brandon Nolan earlier in the day.
New Jersey muted Carolina's offence in the third period, only allowing six shots and few scoring opportunities. The Devils are 17-0-0 when leading after two periods.
"We don't have to score a lot of goals to win," Langenbrunner said. "One or two goals and we have a chance. When we get three or four like that, we definitely have a chance."
Notes: It was the first meeting of the season between the teams. ... Sergei Samonov played his first home game for Carolina since he was picked up on re-entry waivers from Chicago before Tuesday's game against Boston. ... New Jersey hit the post twice, including on a shot about 25 seconds into the game.