Devils goalie Hedberg bounces back in shootout victory
NEWARK, N.J. - After giving up five goals Saturday night in a loss to Carolina and getting pulled from the game in the process, New Jersey Devils goalie Johan Hedberg wanted to get a little bit of redemption a day later against the Winnipeg Jets.
"I had to bounce back," Hedberg said. "There's no time for getting down and feeling sorry for yourself. I had to get back out there. Each game is different. You just have to have focus coming off a loss. You don't want to lose the mental battle."
The resilient Hedberg, starting in his ninth straight game in place of the injured Martin Brodeur, made 25 saves in regulation and overtime, then added three stellar stops in the shootout, leading the Devils to a 3-2 win over the Jets.
Patrik Elias scored his second deciding shootout goal in the past three games, giving the Devils the win in a closely contested and relatively clean contest Sunday night at the Prudential Center.
There were only two penalties called in the entire game, one against each team.
The Devils (12-9-5) blew a two-goal lead, yet came back to win, keeping them in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Jets (12-11-2) are still in ninth place.
"When we got to the shootout, I knew that we were in good position to win the game," said Hedberg, who earned only his third victory in the last nine games, a stretch where he had allowed 28 goals. "I really needed this and maybe now I can put a few good games together."
Hedberg made a huge save in the third period on big Dustin Byfuglien, known as the Jumbo Jet. He unleashed a monstrous slap shot on which Hedberg made a pad save with his right leg with 4:49 left in regulation.
"That was a tough shot, but I got the bounce I needed," Hedberg said. "We were due for a good bounce and a little good luck."
After New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson fired unsuccessful shots in the shootout, Elias decided the contest with a backhand shot that slid through the pads of Jets goalkeeper Ondrej Pavelec, who made 25 saves in regulation and overtime.
Elias also had the winner in the Devils' shootout win Thursday night against the visiting Buffalo Sabres.
Hedberg stopped shootout attempts by Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd.
"I didn't know what Wheeler was going to do, but I had good reads on the others," Hedberg said. "It was tough after they got the second goal, but we battled back."
Kovalchuk thought Hedberg's play was the key.
"He deserves this, because he's the hardest worker we have every day," Kovalchuk said of Hedberg. "It was a great thing for us to be able to get him the win. Every game now is important. Every game becomes huge."
Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta each had first-period goals for the Devils.
Mark Stuart and Kane scored for the Jets.
In overtime, the Devils had a great chance. Clarkson, in the midst of an 11-game scoring drought, took advantage of a poor line change and unleashed a wrist shot that Pavelec smothered.
With just five seconds left in overtime, Kane took a hard wrist shot that Hedberg caught with his glove, sending the game to the shootout.
The Jets, looking for their third victory in a four-game road trip, had the better scoring chances in the third period.
Midway through the period, Olli Jokinen fired a low wrist shot that Hedberg stopped with his right pad.
In the closing seconds, Kane lifted a backhand attempt that skipped through the crease.
The Devils had a rare accomplishment Sunday: They scored the game's first goal. It had been nine games since New Jersey tallied the first goal of the game, but the Devils, asserting themselves early by putting a lot of pressure and pucks on Pavelec, finally benefited from their hard work.
Midway through the period, with the Devils already holding a 9-1 advantage in shots on goal, a dump-in from defenseman Anton Volchenkov took a weird bounce off the boards right to Travis Zajac. The struggling Zajac, who has gone seven games without a goal, had two shots at Pavelec before Carter's backhand got past Pavelec at the 8:47 mark.
"The first goal had been elusive for us," Carter said. "We played well at the start of games, but we didn't get anything for it. In a way, the guys were relieved that we got the first one."
The Devils kept the pressure on, scoring again just 1:25 after Carter's goal. The diminutive Gionta took a pass from Kovalchuk and skated in on Pavelec, putting a wrist shot between the goaltender's pads for a 2-0 lead at the 10:12 mark. It was Gionta's third goal of the season.
The Jets received a huge break with 3:43 left in the first period. Stuart dumped a pass in front of the goal that deflected off Devils defenseman Andy Greene's stick and past Hedberg for a goal that sliced the lead in half.
A dejected Greene patted Hedberg on the head as to apologize for the mistake.
"I've seen those happen before," Hedberg said. "No one means anything with it. It just happened."
The Devils dominated the opening period yet had only a 2-1 lead at the first intermission.
Jets head coach Claude Noel was not pleased with his team's start.
"How we start like that is unbelievable," Noel said. "To come out like that after they traveled and we sat here and rested, it's unbelievable."
The Jets managed to tie the game as Kane skated in and fired a wrist shot to the high right side of Hedberg with 2:41 left in the second period.
The Devils' solid start was wiped away with Kane's game-tying score, his 10th of the season. Kane scored the game-winning goal in the Jets' 5-2 win over the Devils on Feb. 24.
"We came back and tied the thing up, but I think we didn't have a lot of great players, that's for sure. I thought we struggled in a lot of areas."
The Devils' Bryce Salvador realizes that his team is struggling, having won just three of its last nine games and only one in regulation.
"It was a tough game, but we didn't give up after giving up the lead," Salvador said. "We didn't get down or disappointed. We haven't been playing well lately, so we really needed this one to come out on our side. It was a good win."
NOTES: Sunday's game marked the ninth straight game that the Devils played without future Hall of Fame goalie Brodeur, currently on the injured list with a bad back. ..Defenseman Mark Fayne and rookie forward Stefan Matteau were healthy scratches for New Jersey. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder missed his third straight game with an upper body injury. ... Salvador, who missed the loss to Carolina Saturday with an upper body injury, played and saw regular action, playing 24 minutes. Only Kovalchuk saw more ice time for the Devils...The Jets entered the game having killed off the last 21 penalties against them over a span of seven games, which includes killing off two 5-on-3 disadvantages....The Jets killed off their lone penalty Sunday, pushing the streak to 22 ... Pavelec, who started the prior two games against New Jersey this season, was in goal again Sunday night. ... The Jets had scored the first goal of the game in their prior three games on the current road trip, which ended with a 1-1-2 record.
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