NEWARK, N.J. – Three games into the season, Peter DoBoer and the New Jersey Devils are starting to enjoy themselves.
Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise scored shootout goals and the Devils overcame a sloppy start and a seemingly minor injury to goalie Martin Brodeur in a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night.
“We have to be really pleased about the start,” Brodeur said after the Devils won their second straight game. “It’s always a question mark when you have new people around. How are you going to respond? So far we have played decent.”
A year ago under rookie coach John MacLean, the Devils opened 0-5-2 at home and wound up missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996. They are 2-1 with DeBoer in his first season, and they won this one despite seeing Brodeur go to the bench after the first period because of a tweaked right shoulder that he said is not serious.
“It’s (winning) good for every guy that is in here,” said Patrik Elias, who scored for the Devils in regulation. “We’re not thinking about it or talking about it (last year) but it’s good to get that start for us, every one of us, the players and coaches. We knew we made a lot of mistakes but it’s nice we’re trying to cover up for each other and battle back. That’s all we can ask of each other. Once we get it straightened out, we’ll be even better.”
Johan Hedberg, who replaced an Brodeur at the start of the second period, made easy stops on Simon Gagne and Anze Kopitar on the Kings’ shootout chances to send Los Angeles to its second straight loss.
“The energy was there for a little while in the first period,” Kings coach Terry Murray said after his team played its first game in North America after opening with two in Europe. “After we got into the second and the third, I thought we hit a bit of a wall. I thought our legs left us and our energy was low.”
Gagne got his first goal as a King to open the game.
Hedberg was perfect in goal, finishing with 16 saves. Jonathan Quick, who was beaten on backhanders by Kovalchuk and Parise in the shootout, was outstanding making 36 saves.
“They are two highly skilled players. They made a couple of good moves and they beat me,” Quick said.
Quick gave the Kings a chance to get to overtime and shootout with a brilliant third period and overtime. He stopped Petr Sykora and Kovalchuk on good chances in the third period and made a late save on Elias in overtime.
Hedberg also had a couple of clutch stops. He got a piece of Justin Williams’ shot with 6:11 left in regulation to get the puck to roll just wide of the net and stopped a wide-open blast by Drew Doughty with 2:40 left in overtime.
Brodeur was hit by a point shot by defenceman Matt Greene with roughly 8 minutes left in the period. Brodeur then stopped a rebound attempt by Trent Hunter. Brodeur, who stopped 10 of 11 shots, also fell to the ice after seemingly getting tangled with one of his defencemen.
Brodeur seconds later dove across the crease and made a save with his blocker. He landed on his shoulder, causing the injury.
After the flurry, Brodeur bent over in the crease and later skated to the bench, where a trainer manipulated his right shoulder.
“I tweaked my shoulder and lost a little strength in it,” Brodeur said. “I didn’t feel comfortable to continue (after the period).”
The Kings needed less than 2 minutes to take the lead on Gagne’s first goal for his new team.
Williams did most of the work, controlling the puck at the Devils’ blue line and then working a give-and-go with Kopitar and carrying the puck into the right circle. Williams feathered a pass between rookie defenceman Adam Larrson’s legs to Gagne alone in front and he easily beat Brodeur with a backhander.
The 39-year-old Brodeur kept New Jersey in the game in the period, stopping point-blank attempts by Kopitar and two great chances by Dustin Penner.
“We’d probably like to throw that out,” DeBoer said of the first 10 minutes. “Luckily, Marty was there to give us a chance to weather the storm and stay in the game.”
Elias tied it less than a minute after Brodeur was hurt. After Quick stopped Elias on a 3-on-2 break, the Devils kept the puck in the zone.
Quick stopped a wraparound attempt by Parise and a rebound by Sykora. Elias got that rebound and deposited a backhander into the net for his first goal of the season.
Brodeur returned to the bench in the second period and watched the rest of the game.