NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Johan Hedberg didn't have time to get down on himself after being lifted for the second time this past week.
With Martin Brodeur still sidelined with a sore back and the New Jersey Devils in the midst of a slide, Hedberg needed to rebound. That's exactly what he did on Sunday night against the Winnipeg Jets.
Hedberg made 23 saves and stopped all three Winnipeg attempt in the shootout to lead the Devils to a 3-2 victory, only their second win in nine games without Brodeur.
``When we got to the shootout, I knew that we were in good position to win the game,' said Hedberg, who was lifted after two periods in the Devils' 6-3 loss at Carolina on Saturday night. ``I had to bounce back. There's no time for getting down and feeling sorry for yourself. I had to get back out there. I really needed this, and maybe now I can put a few good games together.'
Hedberg, also lifted in a loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday, was solid in the shootout. The 39-year-old made a snow-angel save Blake Wheeler, a glove stop on Evander Kane and a pad save on Andrew Ladd on the final try.
``He deserves this, because he's the hardest worker we have every day,' Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. ``It was a great thing for us to be able to get him the win. Every game now is important. Every game becomes huge.'
The win was only the Devils' fourth in 14 games (4-8-2) and it kept them a point ahead of the eighth-place Rangers in the Eastern Conference. New York has two games in hand. Winnipeg is two points behind the Rangers and three behind New Jersey in the race for the final two playoff berths.
Patrik Elias scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Devils a much needed two points and to keep Winnipeg, which has played one fewer game than New Jersey, from getting closer.
Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta scored in regulation time for the Devils, while Elias netted the winner with a backhander on the Devils' last attempt. It barely got under goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who made 25 saves before the tiebreaker.
``We didn't have a lot of great players, that's for sure, a lot of good players,' Jets coach Claude Noel said. ``I thought we struggled in a lot of areas.'
Goaltending wasn't one of them.
``He was, I thought by far, our best player,' Noel said.
Defenseman Mark Stuart and Kane had regulation goals for the Jets, who had a two-game winning streak snapped and lost for only the third time in eight games.
Both goalies had to make big saves in overtime. Pavelec stopped Peter Harrold in the opening minute and then denied Clarkson with his pad with 2:36 to go.
Hedberg had a glove save on Kane 5.8 seconds before the shootout, and a stop on Dustin Byfuglien in close a minute earlier.
Hedberg also kept the game tied with a pad save on a blast by Byfuglien with 4:50 left in the third period. Kyle Wellwood almost gave Winnipeg the lead in the closing seconds, but his drive struck the post.
The Devils, who hadn't scored the first goal in nine games, got the first two against the Jets. They were in total command until defenseman Andy Greene tipped Stuart's shot from the left boards past Hedberg, who was in perfect position to stop the relatively easy shot.
Noel was annoyed with his team's start, especially because it was here and off on Saturday and the Devils played on the road and had to travel home.
``We didn't come out a little flat, we came out a lot flat,' Noel said. ``So how it can happen is beyond me.'
Kane tied made it 2-2 with 2:41 left in the second period, ripping a shot from the left circle high into the corner of the net after being sprung by Stuart on a 2-on-1 with Antti Miettinen.
New Jersey, which lost 6-3 at Carolina on Saturday night, came out flying despite the back-to-back games. Pavelec kept the Devils off the boards until a lucky bounce set up Carter's goal.
New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov fired the puck off the glass behind the net after crossing center ice. Instead of going around the net, the puck came right back in front, and Pavelec stopped Travis Zajac in close.
The center sent the puck across the crease, and Carter backhanded it in for his third goal of the season.
Gionta pushed the lead to 2-0 just 1:25 later, beating Pavelec between the pads on a breakaway set up by Kovalchuk.
It marked the first time the Devils enjoyed a two-goal lead since a win over the Flyers on Feb. 15, a span of 11 games.
NOTED: Stuart was shaken up midway through the third period, going face first into the boards behind the net while making a touch on an icing call. ... Devils captain Bryce Salvador was back in the lineup after missing Saturday night's game because of an upper body injury. ... The Jets went 2-1-1 on a four-game road trip. ... The Devils had their 12th sellout in 13 home games this season. ... Winnipeg has killed 22 straight penalties over the last eight games.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved