Devils Burn Flames with Shootout Win

Devils 2 Calgary 1       —          shootout

It took 22 games, but the New Jersey Devils finally won consecutive games on Wednesday night and they may be on the right path to correcting their wretched start. It took a shootout, but a win is a win is a win — as the Devils topped the Calgary Flames 2-1 at Prudential Center behind the stellar goaltending of Johan Hedberg, who finished with 26 saves. Ilya Kovalchuk, whose last appearance in a shootout was forgettable (the puck slid off his stick before he could get a shot off on November 10) scored the only goal of the tiebreaker as New Jersey’s first shooter and Hedberg denied all three Calgary shooters. “Moose deserved to be the first star tonight; he’s the guy who’s really helping us win right now, he’s playing unbelievable,” said Kovalchuk afterwards. “The way he played gives us so much confidence.”

David Clarkson opened the scoring 13:06 into the opening period when Mattias Tedenby’s wrist shot from the slot deflected off of his skate and past Flames’ rookie goalie Henrik Karlsson. “I was just standing in front of the net and Teddy (Tedenby) shot it; I was just standing there and it went off my shin pad,” Clarkson explained. “I think the refs thought I kicked it, that’s why they reviewed it, but it just nicked off my shin pad and went in.” On the scoring play New Jersey had kept the puck in the offensive zone after a power play expired, and Matt Corrente’s blue line shot found its way to the back of the net after it was blocked; Tedenby found the loose disc and immediately shot it — hitting Clarkson at the right time. “I guess I was just in the right place at the right time,” he said.

The Devils carried the 1-0 lead into the third period and Hedberg had stopped all 18 of Calgary’s shots to that point. But the Flames scored as their power play ended when Rene Bourque deflected Matt Giordano’s point shot into the back of the net 1:18 into the frame for his tenth goal of the season. “Even when you look at the one goal he gave up, I’m pretty sure it was a tip-in right? So, when somebody tips it, probably six feet in front of you, he can’t do anything about it,” said Devils’ winger Dainius Zubrus. “To me he was real good — again nothing really went by him; it’s huge.”

Hedberg and Karlsson continued to stop everything they saw as the game moved to a five-minute overtime, and the Flames rookie goalie saved his biggest stops for a Devils’ 4-on-3 two-minute advantage. New Jersey mustered five shots on their power play, two more than they managed in the twenty minute third period, but Karlsson stopped them all until he met Kovalchuk in the shootout. “It’s all about the two points. Both teams were desperate; those games are usually down to the end. I wish it wasn’t going to be shootout,” said Kovalchuk, “we should’ve won in overtime, but listen what are you going to do? One team has to win.”

Hedberg meanwhile, denied Niklas Hagman, Alex Tanguay and Brendan Morrison in succession during the shootout — sending his teammates’ home happy and ready to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinners. “I don’t know how much turkey we’re going to have,” said Zubrus, “but yeah it will taste better because we won for sure.”

Game Notes: New Jersey has now won three in a row at home after dropping their first seven home contests. Tedenby now has points in three straight games and six (3g-3a) in seven games since he made his NHL debut. Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester played in his 445th consecutive game, which leads all active players. Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder led all skaters in ice-time, logging 27:12 and Giordano led the Flames with 23:33. Bourque led all players with five shots on goal, while Patrik Elias led the Devils with four. New Jersey (7-13-2) is off until Friday afternoon when they play at the New York Islanders (4-12-5) and Calgary (8-11-2) also plays Friday afternoon when they visit Philadelphia (16-6-2)

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 26 saves, win (3)

#2 – Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) – g/w shootout goal

#3 – Henrik Karlsson (Cgy) – 20 saves, shootout loss (1)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

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