Uniondale, NY – Anders Nilsson was less than two minutes away from his second straight shutout of the Devils, but New Jersey rallied back against the rookie goaltender with a pair of goals within 14 seconds to top the Islanders 2-1 and rattle off their third straight win.
Nilsson blanked the Devils 1-0 last Sunday, making 24 saves against a listless New Jersey squad, and the Devils were determined to not let it happen again.
“It took us 118 minutes to solve him, but we finally did,” said captain Zach Parise, who picked up an assist on Marek Zidlicky’s game-winner.
The hulking 6-5 Swede was stifling for much of the game, leaving little room for the Devils and snagging most everything else. David Clarkson found the smallest of openings, but it wasn’t his pin-point precision that directed the puck past for the equalizer with 1:39 to play.
The gritty forward, who tallied the 28th goal of what is turning out to be a standout season, came from behind the goal line and turned on his backhand to glance a shot through to tie the game at 1.
“To be honest with you, I was just trying to get it somewhere on the net,” Clarkson said. “It wasn’t one of those spin-around shots. I don’t have the skill, I think, to pick my spot right there. I was just trying to get it somewhere on his glove hand and just squeak through.”
With the game tied at 1, Islanders forward PA Parenteau took a bad boarding penalty on Bryce Salvador that led to the deciding goal. Scoreless on the first three power-plays of the game, the Devils converted quickly on the fourth with Zidlicky’s shot from the point.
It was Zidlicky’s first goal as a Devil since being traded from Minnesota days before the trade deadline in February. He now has three points in the past two games.
“I’ve gotten a lot of chance to take the shot the last couple games,” he said. “I tried to find somebody else, but I got a good spot for a good shot and I scored.”
For as much credit as Nilsson garnered in holding the Devils scoreless for 118:39, there was another stingy Swede on the other end of the ice.
Playing for the first time since a 5-0 shutout win over the capitals March 2, Johan Hedberg was stellar in goal for the Devils. He surrendered only one goal, to John Tavares at 6:46 of the third.
Before Tavares third-period marker – his first point against the Devils this season – Hedberg had preserved a scoreless streak that spanned more than a month. He had last given up a goal to St. Louis’ Patrik Berglund in the Devils 4-3 shootout loss to the Blues Feburary 9.
Thankfully, the Devils didn’t spoil his effort.
Said coach Pete DeBoer:
“It would’ve been a crime not to get a win for him the way he played.”