ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Todd Marchant scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period while Anaheim was short-handed and added an empty-netter, leading the Ducks to a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday in a matchup of division leaders.

Dustin Penner and Samuel Pahlsson scored and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 23 saves for the Ducks, who are off to the best start in franchise history and lead the Western Conference with a 16-2-6 record.

Brian Gionta had a power-play goal and Patrik Elias also scored for the Devils, who began the day tied with the New York Rangers for first place in the Atlantic Division. Martin Brodeur made 33 saves.

The teams met for only the second time since the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, when Devils wrapped up their third championship in a span of nine seasons with a 3-0 victory in Game 7. Giguere was the MVP of the playoffs that year despite three shutouts by Brodeur in the finals.

The Ducks received a two-man advantage early in the third period when Colin White was given a slashing penalty and Brodeur was assessed a high-sticking penalty 37 seconds later. The two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie stopped all four shots during the ensuing 5-on-3 situation.

But the Ducks grabbed a 3-2 lead less than 5 minutes later on Marchant’s 22nd career short-handed goal while captain Scott Niedermayer was serving a hooking penalty. Marchant broke out of the Anaheim zone with the puck and got a return pass at the right of the net from Travis Moen before sliding the puck under the diving Brodeur.

Niedermayer, one of only five players with New Jersey for all three Stanley Cups, faced his former team for the first time. He was drafted third overall by the Devils in 1991 and had 112 goals and 346 assists in 892 regular-season games for them over 12 seasons. The 2004 Norris Trophy winner signed a four-year, $27 million contract with Anaheim after the lockout that canceled the 2004-05 season.

Elias, who replaced Niedermayer as Devils captain, trimmed Anaheim’s lead to 2-1 at 16:43 of the first period with a one-timer from 30-feet in the slot after Jamie Langenbrunner fed him from the left corner.

The Devils, who were 4-for-54 on the power play through their previous 10 road games this season, tied it at 4:25 of the second while Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger was serving a slashing penalty. Gionta carried the puck into the Anaheim zone and easily stickhandled around defenseman Francois Beauchemin before putting a short wrist shot between Giguere’s left foot and the post for his ninth goal.

Penner opened the scoring at 6:31 of the first with his ninth of the season, slipping behind defenseman Brian Rafalski and converting Ryan Shannon’s perfectly threaded centering pass from the right circle. Pahlsson scored at 13:59, beating Brodeur low to the stick side with a 30-foot slap shot just 2 seconds after the Ducks killed off a boarding penalty against Marchant.

Notes: Barring unforeseen circumstances, Niedermayer will play in his 1,000th NHL regular-season game Tuesday night at Edmonton. … The only other time Brodeur and Giguere faced each other since the 2002 Finals was Nov. 26, 2003, when the teams tied 3-3 in Anaheim. … Since last Thanksgiving, the Ducks are 51-18-14. The only teams with better records during that stretch are Buffalo and Detroit. … The Devils, who came in averaging a league-low 11.2 penalty minutes, killed off all six Anaheim power plays. They were short-handed only twice in each of their previous three games.

AP-ES-11-24-06 1840EST


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