EDMONTON – Jeff Deslauriers wasn’t sorely tested, but when he still proved up to the task playing against his goaltending idol.
Deslauriers made 22 saves to record his third shutout of the season as the Edmonton Oilers blanked Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils 2-0 on Sunday.
“We played a great game both ways tonight,” Deslauriers said. “We worked hard for our chances and we played smart. Defensively we were really on the button tonight. Everyone was committed to doing the job.”
Deslauriers was coming off a 2-1 victory over Minnesota in which he made 28 saves and was solid in the shootout.
Edmonton head coach Pat Quinn said he has seen some vast improvements in the young goalie’s game of late.
“He’s been really sharp in both games,” he said. “We were pretty good in front of him too but he made some big stops when he had to. He looked sharp. He wasn’t sitting back like he does when he doubts himself every once in a while. He’s not guessing right now. He is playing like he knows what is happening out there.”
Deslauriers said it was amazing simply playing against Brodeur, let alone defeating him.
“He is somebody I have admired since I was a kid, I think he’s the strongest goalie mentally in the league,” he said. “You play against somebody like that, who you watched growing up, and see him during the warm-up across the ice. You’re thinking, is this real?”
Gilbert Brule and Marc Pouliot scored for the Oilers (21-38-6), who won their second game in a row. Edmonton hasn’t had much luck stringing together wins this season, going 6-25-2 in their last 33 games, good for last in the NHL.
Brodeur made 33 saves for the Devils (38-23-3), who have lost two straight. New Jersey has won just four of its last 14 to fall five points back of Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division lead.
“I don’t know what the reason was, but especially in the first 40 minutes we were just bad,” said Devils centre Dainius Zubrus. “They were out-skating us, we weren’t good on the forecheck, we weren’t creating anything, just throwing the pucks away. They were better than us. We had a few chances in the third, their goalie made a few saves, but that was nowhere good enough to win a hockey game.”
New Jersey head coach Jacques Lemaire said it may have been a case of taking the Oilers too lightly.
“Our focus wasn’t there, our legs weren’t there,” he said. “Maybe we felt that because we were playing a team that doesn’t win a lot of games, we could just go through the motions. But we’ve talked about this all year. To win games you have to work.”
A sluggish first period saw just ten total shots, with the best chance coming off the stick of the Oilers’ Ryan Potulny in tight just three minutes in.
Edmonton got on the board 1:23 into the second as Patrick O’Sullivan tracked down a puck behind the Devils net and put in front to Brule. His quick shot banked in off of Brodeur for his 14th goal and 30th point of the season.
Deslauriers made a quick glove save on Patrik Elias and then stopped Ilya Kovalchuk on a partial breakaway early in the third.
“I didn’t know it was him coming at me,” Deslauriers said. “I didn’t know until he turned around and I saw the number.”
The Oilers stretched their lead not long after as Robert Nilsson dove to make a pass to Pouliot, who blew a shot past Brodeur for his fourth of the season to effectively put the game away.
The Oilers next play host to Ottawa on Tuesday, while the Devils return home to face the Rangers on Wednesday.
Notes: Sunday’s game was the only meeting of the 2009-10 season between the teams. Edmonton won the most recent matchup, 2-1 in New Jersey on Nov. 9, 2008. … Devils forward Dean McAmmond left the game favouring his shoulder after taking a second period hit from Zack Stortini and did not return. … The Oilers announced after the game that forward Ryan Jones, who only played two games with the team after being picked up on waivers before being injured on a knee-on-knee hit from Minnesota’s Derek Boogaard, will likely miss the remainder of the season with a torn MCL. … Edmonton also updated the status of defenceman Sheldon Souray, in hospital after an infection was discovered in his broken hand. They believe they have cleaned the infection but will still keep him under observation for the next couple days. … New Jersey trade deadline acquisition Martin Skoula suited up for the first time for the Devils, initially delayed in joining the team after his trade from Toronto as he waited for his wife to give birth. … Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid has joined the long list of Edmonton players out for the season, requiring neck surgery. … The Devils came into the game with 38 points this season on the road, almost equal to the 46 points overall for the Oilers.