Hedberg Stands Tall as Devils Outlast Flyers

Devils 2 Philadelphia 1 — shootout

Despite losing to the New York Islanders 2-0 at the Nassau Coliseum on Black Friday (snapping their modest two-game winning streak) the New Jersey Devils were able to rebound and beat the division-leading Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 2-1 in a shootout 24 hours later at Prudential Center. The Devils have now won four in a row at home and the last three of those can directly be attributed to the play in goal by Johan Hedberg who has surrendered only two goals in the three games, stopping 83 of the 85 shots he has faced. “He’s been incredible. It seems like he’s a goalie that the more shots he gets, the better he is,” said New Jersey’s Travis Zajac. “Today, they got a lucky one on him, other than that he’s been making key saves for us in key situations of games.”

Just 1:52 into the game the Flyers found themselves shorthanded for four minutes when Scott Hartnell smacked Brian Rolston in the head with his stick. Although the Devils didn’t score on the power play they gained some early territorial momentum and had seven shots on goal before Philly had registered its first of the day. Adam Mair scored his first goal of the season at 11:49, snapping a wrist shot past Flyers goalie Brian Boucher’s stick hand to give New Jersey the early 1-0 lead. “It feels great; I’ve had some chances,” said Mair afterwards. “As a hockey player, you always like to score; you always like to help contribute offensively.”

Philadelphia out-shot the Devils 41-18 for the game after the first eight minutes but they were never able to solve Hedberg until Daniel Briere scored the tying goal from behind the goal line 8:38 into the third period, his 12th of the season. “He just shot it at me,” said Hedberg. “I think he shot it from the side of the net, it bounced up and hit my thigh and went in. It’s just one of those things.”

After a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout where the first two shooters on each team were turned aside without a goal — Ilya Kovalchuk and Mattias Tedenby for New Jersey, Claude Giroux and Briere for Philly. Nikolay Zherdev beat Hedberg through his five-hole, putting pressure on Jason Arnott to keep the game alive for his fellow Devils. “I just had it in my head what I was going to do all along and it helps when you have it in your head what you are going to do,” confessed Arnott. “I knew Boucher was going down a little bit early, and I wanted to go (top) shelf; I wanted to make sure I got it off quick and hard…and it went in.”

Flyers’ captain Mike Richards rang a wrist shot off the post in round 4 before Zajac clinched the win with his sharp wrist shot that went by Boucher so fast it hit the back of the twine and popped right back out past the Flyers netminder. “I said to myself if I got a chance I would just fake a shot, and then try to go upstairs,” said Zajac. “To be able to come back today (after Friday’s loss) and get the two points against a very good hockey team, that was important for us.”

Game Notes: Devils winger Patrik Elias missed the game because his wife Petra was giving birth to their first child, Sophia Gabriella. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 26:31, while Matt Carle led Philadelphia with 25:40. Jeff Carter, who assisted on Briere’s goal, led all players with nine shots on goal; Kovalchuk led New Jersey with eight. Flyers d-man Kimmo Timonen led all players with four blocked shots. New Jersey (8-14-2) is off until Thursday when they host Montreal (15-8-1) and Philadelphia (15-6-4) is back in action on Wednesday when they host Boston (12-7-2).

 

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Johan Hedberg (NJ) – 40 saves, win (4)

#2 – Travis Zajac (NJ) – g/w shootout goal

#3 – Daniel Briere (Phil) – pp goal (12)

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

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Devils-Flyers Postgame Quotes [11.27.10]

Travis Zajac:

Talking about rebounding from a loss the day before…

“We wanted to get those points yesterday, but to be able to come back today and get the two points against a very good hockey team; that was important for us.”

Was your move planned ahead in the shootout?

“I said to myself if I got a chance I would just fake a shot, then try to go upstairs.”

Were you trying to get him to go down?

“Yeah.”

Was it nice to get that goal when goals have been hard to come by this season for you?

“(smiles) Yeah; I wish those counted on the score sheet. It’s been a struggle for us the last couple of games. We haven’t done too much on offense, but our defense has been solid. I think if we continue to play hard defensively we are going to get more and more opportunities; but we still have to work on creating stuff offensively. It’s tough to win games when you score one goal a game, lucky for us our goalie has kept us in the last couple of times. We still have to find ways to score.”

What did you think of Hedberg’s game tonight?

“He’s been incredible. It seems like he’s a goalie that the more shots he gets, the better he is. Today, they got a lucky one on him, other than that he’s been making key saves for us in key situations of games. He’s the reason we won three out of four (games) this week.”

Johan Hedberg:

Did (Nikolay) Zherdev’s shot go through your five-hole there?

“Yeah, he fooled me. I thought he was going to shoot up, but it was a quick release, beat me five-hole.”

Did Danny Briere’s goal go in off your leg?

“Well I think what happened was they passed across (the crease) and it hit a skate, came back out and then Briere shot it at me. I think he shot it from the side of the net, it bounced up and hit my thigh and went in.”

Talking about the recent shootouts…

“Sometimes you don’t see one for thirty games, and then when you see them it’s four in five nights.”

Jason Arnott:

You scored a huge pressure goal today…almost 18,000 people were holding their breath; how did you feel going into it?

“(laughs) I just relaxed. The referee blowing the whistle as quick as he did so I could go instead of thinking about it helped a lot. I just had it in my head what I was going to do all along and it helps when you have it in your head what you are going to do.”

Tell me what was in your head?

“I knew he was going down a little bit early, and I wanted to go (top) shelf; it went bar and in. I wanted to make sure I got it off quick and hard…and it went in.”

It wasn’t the winner though, what about Zajac’s shot?

“He put a great move on the goalie; he came right in and put it upstairs. I can’t say enough about Travis — he comes to compete every night, he’s not always on the score sheet but he’s always playing solid defensively — and all around the ice. He’s been playing real well for us.”

You guys have won three of the last four games and seemed to have turned things around; how big was this one?

“It was huge; especially after a disappointing output yesterday, we wanted to come in, we knew Philly is atop the conference — we wanted to come in and just play hard. We haven’t had a whole lot of wins at home, the fans were behind us today and we battled it out. We were missing Patty as well, and everybody just chipped in where we could.”

Adam Mair:

Talking about his first point as a Devil…

“It feels good to contribute offensively and help the team win. I think as a whole we really got it together and played well; down shorthanded, the third game in three and a half nights, it was a good effort.”

How did it feel to get your first goal of the year?

“It feels great; I’ve had some chances. It’s not necessarily what’s expected of certain players on the team, but as a hockey player, you always like to score, you always like to help contribute offensively.”

What did you think of Hedberg today?

“He played great; he played great all week. He’s really been the backbone of our team and the success of our team; I can’t say enough good things about him. His work ethic, even when he wasn’t in the net; you need solid goaltending to win and Johan has done nothing but provide that, especially over the last week or so.”