NEWARK, N.J. – The strong play of backup goalie Johan Hedberg has made the absence of Martin Brodeur less painful for the New Jersey Devils.
Hedberg made his fourth straight start Saturday and the Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in a shootout.
With Brodeur sidelined by a bruised elbow, Hedberg made 40 saves through overtime, and then stopped three of four Flyers in the shootout.
“I think it’s a team thing for me,” Hedberg said. “We started something good a few games ago. It’s put the goaltender in a different position. We’re way more sound. That’s the way we’ve got to play.”
With Hedberg holding off the top offensive team in the NHL, the Devils pulled out their third win in the last four games. After a 5-13-2 start, New Jersey is trying to get back into the playoff chase.
“It was a good week for us,” Devils coach John MacLean said. “We need to look that we got six of eight points. Going into next week, if we keep doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”
Travis Zajac scored in the fourth round of the shootout to give the Devils the victory.
After the first four shooters missed, Nikolay Zherdev drilled a shot between Hedberg’s pads. Jason Arnott countered against Brian Boucher to keep the Devils alive.
Mike Richards led off the fourth round and hit the post. That set the stage for Zajac, who beat Boucher with a neat fake.
“That’s the way we’re going to have to play the rest of the year,” Zajac said. “Points are important, especially since we’ve fallen behind. Hedberg is the reason why we’ve been in these games. He kept us in the game and gave us some momentum.”
Adam Mair scored the regulation goal for the Devils.
Danny Briere scored on a power play in the third period for Philadelphia. This was the Flyers’ second straight shootout loss, one they attributed to a strong effort by Hedberg.
“He played well,” Boucher said. “He kept his team in there. He played solid. After that first period, we seemed to pick up our play and get more shots but you’ve got give Hedberg credit.”
Mair picked the upper left corner from the right circle at 11:49 of the opening period, his first goal of the season.
Mair’s goal was a relief for the Devils, who squandered an excellent opportunity when the Flyers’ Scott Hartnell got a double-minor for high-sticking Brian Rolston 1:52 into the game. New Jersey couldn’t cash in on the four-minute advantage. Ilya Kovalchuk had the best chance on a slapshot from the left circle that Boucher blocked.
The Flyers’ best opportunities came late in the period, with Hedberg coming up big against Jeff Carter’s drive from the left faceoff dot.
Hedberg stopped 12 shots in the second period as the Devils clung to the 1-0 lead.
Hedberg came way out of the net to stop Ville Leino and was sharp again when Carter had another close-in try.
The Devils’ best chances in the period came from David Clarkson, set up nicely by Mair only to be denied by Boucher’s diving save, and Rolston, who hit the post.
The Flyers pressed hard for the equalizer early in the third and came close several times. Hedberg stopped Carter again, diving out to block a shot and he also had some luck as Leino hit the post on a shot from the slot. The relentless pressure finally paid off as Briere banked a close-in shot off Hedberg for a power-play goal at 8:38.
“We progressed and got better as the game went on,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We fought for a point in the third period. Hedberg was pretty good, but our guy was too.”
Kovalchuk blew the best chance of the overtime, flubbing a perfect feed in the slot from Zajac.
Notes: The game concluded a busy stretch for the Flyers, who played 10 times in 17 days. … It was the first meeting between the teams since the Flyers beat the Devils in five games in last season’s opening-round playoff series. … Mair signed with the Devils as a free agent on Oct. 12. The goal was his 38th in 571 games.