NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils left winger Patrik Elias didn’t want he and his team’s season to end just yet.
Not on Friday night. Not against the rival Philadelphia Flyers. So he did something about it.
Elias notched his eighth career hat trick -- his first three-goal game since Apr. 5, 2006 -- and the Devils staved off playoff elimination once again, beating the Flyers, 4-2, in front of a sellout crowd of 17,625 at the Prudential Center.
“Mathematically we’re still in it,” said Elias, who has never missed the postseason in his 14-year career. “So we’re just playing. We’re working hard and we’re having fun doing it. We’ll see where we’re at in five games.”
Had the Devils (36-36-5) lost, their season would’ve been over. But Elias wouldn’t allow that to happen, combining with linemate Brian Rolston on each and every one of his three goals.
“He made great plays,” Elias, who now has 19 goals on the season, said of Rolston. “Like I said, we were moving, getting in the right spots and supporting each other. We had a lot of jump.”
The first two of Elias' goals were pretty.
Elias got his team on the board 6:28 into the second period, one-timing a Rolston pass in the high slot to tie the game at 1-1.
Less than two minutes later, the duo cashed in again, this time shorthanded. Rolston carried the puck into the Flyers zone on a 2-on-1, and got James van Riemsdyk to bite before feeding Elias for an easy tap in, giving the Devils a 2-1 lead at 8:20.
The third one, however, came via a bit of luck, in the form of a fortuitous bounce.
After Rolston’s shot from the right wing was stopped by Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher, the rebound went right off Elias’ right skate and into the net. The goal, which came with just 2:46 left in the third period, put the game away. It was later upheld by video review.
“On the first two Rollie made great plays on both of them,” Elias said. “The third one was luck no question about it.”
Although Elias knew he had recorded the hat trick right away, the fans had no idea.
“Nobody knew if I touched it or the d-man maybe,” Elias said. “I gotta give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.”
About a minute later, the first hat finally came flying onto the ice. Approximately two dozen more followed.
“He’s got good hockey sense,” interim coach Jacques Lemaire said. “He sees the ice well, gets in good position. Tonight’s a different night because he was in the slot when he got the puck. It was a different night for him, that’s why he scored.”
The Devils will be eliminated if the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres can pick up just one point the rest of the way. But for a team that finished the first half 10-29-2, it's truly incredible that they’re still alive -- albeit hanging by a thread -- with five games remaining in the regular season.
To have a chance to make the playoffs, they’d need to win out, and have either the Rangers or Sabres lose out. That would mean both teams would have 87 points. A tiebreaker would then determine who gets in.
“Our goal is to win all the games and just enjoy the five games we have left,” Elias said. “We don’t look beyond that, to be honest. We just take it one game a time.”