NEWARK, N.J. – Kevin Weekes put a tough outing behind him with a milestone victory.
Weekes made 25 saves for his 100th NHL victory, and David Clarkson and Travis Zajac scored 10 seconds apart late in the first period in the Devils’ 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Friday night.
It was a strong bounceback effort for Weekes in his first start since giving up four goals in two periods in a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Nov. 12. Scott Clemmensen had started the last three for the Devils.
“It’s always fun when you get a chance to play,” said Weekes, 100-161-39 in his NHL career. “It’s a privilege to play in the NHL and I’ve always had that attitude my entire career. This one was pretty special. Now I know what Marty feels like every day. He’s always hitting some milestone.”
Marty is Martin Brodeur, the Devils’ four-time Vezina Trophy winner, sidelined until March following biceps surgery. His absence helped turn the game into a battle of backup goalies as Weekes outduelled Joey MacDonald, filling in for the Islanders while Rick DiPietro misses several more weeks with a knee injury.
“Weekes was solid,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said. “He made the saves that he had to. We got out of Weekes what we wanted.”
Bryce Salvador, Brian Gionta and Paul Martin also scored, and Jamie Langenbrunner and Zach Parise each had three assists to help the Devils win their third straight game and snap the Islanders’ winning streak at three.
Andy Hilbert and Sean Bergenheim scored for the Islanders.
Clarkson got the Devils’ first goal with 1:19 remaining, a power-play deflection of Johnny Oduya’s hard shot from the right point.
Zajac struck moments later, deflecting Langenbrunner’s shot. The changeup fooled MacDonald, and the Devils skated to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.
The Islanders never recovered.
“It’s always tough when you give up a couple of quick ones,” MacDonald said. “They made two great tips. They dropped the puck and they came right down again and got another one.”
The Islanders got two outstanding saves earlier in the period, which prevented the game turning into a Devils’ rout. MacDonald made the first stop, and defenceman Chris Campoli had the other.
MacDonald stopped Dainius Zubrus’ drive from the slot with a glove save. On the second shot, MacDonald was out of position, having skated out of the crease to deny a breakaway bid Gionta. The puck wound up on Patrik Elias’ stick with a wide open Islanders net. Campoli blocked the shot, maintaining the scoreless deadlock.
Both teams scored twice in the second period, giving the Devils a 4-2 advantage.
Hilbert scored for New York at 3:29, flipping a shot toward the net that appeared to hit a New Jersey defender. Salvador countered for New Jersey only 23 seconds later with his first regular season goal as a Devil. The defenceman, acquired late last season from St. Louis, scored once in the playoffs.
Bergenheim cut the Devils lead to 3-2 at 13:04, backhanding the rebound from Andy Sutton’s shot that hit the post.
Gionta restored the two-goal margin for New Jersey with a short-handed goal with 15.4 seconds remaining.
In the third, Martin converted a 5-on-3 power-play advantage to put the Devils up 5-2 at 12:32.
More than losing the game, the Islanders were upset by the big hit by Devils defenceman Mike Mottau on Frans Nielsen early in the third period. Mottau came across, catching Neilsen with an elbow that laid out the forward. Neilsen had to be helped off the ice with head and leg injuries.
New York captain Bill Guerin compared it to the elbow by Islanders defenceman Thomas Pock on Ottawa’s Ryan Shannon. Pock is currently serving a 5-game suspension for the hit.
“I know it was to the head,” Guerin said. “I know Mike Mottau. He’s not a dirty player, but it was a dirty hit. Thomas Pock is not a dirty player, but he had a dirty hit against Ottawa and he paid for it.”
Notes: Brendan Witt returned for the Islanders after missing four weeks because of a sprained knee. … The Devils assigned Nicklas Bergfors to Lowell (AHL). He scored one goal in eight games. … Barry Tallackson made his season debut for the Devils following surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat, while John Madden sat out with a foot injury … The Islanders started a three-games-in-four-nights trip that takes them to Buffalo Saturday and Montreal on Monday. … Former Devil Guerin played his 100th game as an Islander. … Salvador and Jackman fought in the closing seconds of the second period. Jackman had a cut under his right eye.