By John Schweibacher
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The New Jersey Devils said goodbye to the 2015-16 season and perhaps to their all-time leading scorer while also saying hello to three players who could be a big part of their future.
The Devils closed out the season with a 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night at the Prudential Center as Patrik Elias had a goal and two assists in with what might have been his final game with New Jersey. It was the 74th three-point game in the regular season for Elias, by far the most by any Devils player dating back to 1987-88:
· Patrik Elias, 74
· John MacLean, 38
· Scott Gomez, 31
· Kirk Muller, 31
· Zach Parise, 23
· Petr Sykora, 23
· Claude Lemieux, 18
· Stephane Richer, 18
· Bobby Holik, 17
· Patrik Sundstrom, 16
· Travis Zajac, 16
Elias’ first career three-point game was on Oct. 30, 1997, when he had two goals and an assist in an 8-1 Devils win over the Canucks at the Meadowlands.
Elias scored with 15.9 seconds left in regulation Saturday, his 408th career goal and 1,025th point with the Devils. Elias is one of five players who scored the final New Jersey goal of a regular season more than once:
· Jamie Langenbrunner, 2003-04, 2005-06 and 2009-10
· Patrik Elias, 2002-03 and 2015-16
· Ilya Kovalchuk, 2011-12 and 2012-13
· Scott Niedermayer, 1996-97 and 2001-02
· Kirk Muller, 1984-85 and 1985-86
Pavel Zacha, Steve Santini and Miles Wood all made their NHL debuts Saturday night for New Jersey. Zacha, the Devils’ first-round draft pick and sixth overall selection in last year’s NHL Entry Draft, had two assists in the win.
The last time a rookie had two points in his NHL debut for New Jersey was on Oct. 5, 2005, when Zach Parise had a goal and an assist in the Devils’ opening night win over Pittsburgh.
New Jersey lost to Tampa Bay, 4-2, Thursday night in Newark. The defeat was the Devils’ fourth in a row, matching their longest losing streak of the season, going back to the first four games of the campaign.
Sergey Kalinin scored twice for New Jersey in the loss, his first career two-goal game.
Here are the last 10 times a Devils rookie has had a two-goal game:
· 4/7/16 Sergey Kalinin vs. TB
· 10/16/14 Damon Severson at Was
· 11/5/11 Adam Henrique vs. Wpg
· 2/8/11 Mattias Tedenby vs. Car
· 12/12/09 Niclas Bergfors vs. Phi
· 11/4/09 Niclas Bergfors vs. Was
· 2/1/07 Travis Zajac at Phi
· 4/13/06 Zach Parise vs. Phi
· 1/13/03 Mike Rupp at Fla (NHL debut)
· 12/26/99 Scott Gomez vs. NYR (3 goals)
The Sabres beat the Devils 3-1 last Tuesday night at the Prudential Center. Rookie Jack Eichel got his 24th goal, an empty-netter to seal the win, his second goal in his three games against New Jersey this season.
According to Hockey-Reference.com, dating back to the 1987-88 season, the most goals scored by a rookie against the Devils was six, by Sidney Crosby in 2005-06.
The only Buffalo Sabres player with more than two goals as a rookie against New Jersey was former Devil Ken Sutton, who had three in three games vs. his future club, spanning the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons.
Plus: John Hynes. The Devils coach was named the coach of the United States team that will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship in Russia next month.
Minus (for Devils fans): Tom Gulliti. After 14 years of outstanding coverage of the Devils for the Bergen Record, the author of the indispensable Fire and Ice blog moves on to NHL.com as a regional writer based in Washington, D.C.