With brilliant goaltending, stifling defense and an opportunistic attack that struck late, yesterday's 3-0 Devils victory over the Islanders before 11,558 at Nassau Coliseum was like so many other New Jersey triumphs over the last decade and a half. "That's the stuff we did last year that drove us through the playoffs and more," right wing Steve Bernier. Only the names leading the charge — goalie Johan Hedberg and Bernier — were different. Nevertheless, the Devils leaned on the two as their catalysts in shaking out of a mini-rut just over 24 hours after an ugly loss in Pittsburgh to reclaim the lead in the Atlantic Division. "We just had to go back to basics and that's what we did," Bernier, part of the Devils' grinding third line, said after beating the Islanders for the second time at the Coliseum this season. Hedberg, legendary netminder Martin Brodeur's backup, was every bit as good as the future Hall of Famer in net. He made 22 saves to keep the contest scoreless and record his 22nd career shutout in the process, and Bernier made his play stand up with two workmanlike goals in a span of 1:10 late in the third period. David Clarkson added an empty-netter to ice the Isles. "We needed the response," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "The one thing about our group is they are pretty honest with themselves when they know it hasn't been their best effort. I think they fixed that today and that's what we were looking for." Hedberg's best save came 8:08 into the third period with the Devils (4-1-3, 11 points) on the power play, when Islanders speedster Michael Grabner intercepted an Ilya Kovalchuk feed and darted the other way on a breakaway. Grabner deked before going to his backhand, but Hedberg was right there for the kick save — the stop played a big part in his first victory of the season. "The one on Grabner was probably the game right there," DeBoer said of Hedberg, who has allowed just one goal on 50 shots in his two starts. "We get used to that from him. He was great again." The Devils' penalty kill, treated like a rag doll by the Islanders (4-3-1, 9 points) in Thursday's 5-4 overtime loss, shut down the league's top attack on the man advantage. The Isles had seven chances and whiffed on all of them, managing a weak five shots after entering having scored on seven of their previous eight power plays.
Devils use backup plan to blank Isles
New York Post | Feb 4