While Dainius Zubrus and the New Jersey Devils ended the Los Angeles Kings’ franchise-record shutout streak, Johan Hedberg started one of his own.
Zubrus scored two of New Jersey’s three second-period goals, and Hedberg made 31 saves for his 18th career shutout in the Devils’ revitalizing 3-0 victory Tuesday night.
Zubrus scored no style points when he charged into the crease and muscled a rebound under Jonathan Bernier, but New Jersey ended the longest stretch of scoreless defense in the Kings’ 44-year history at 221 minutes, 22 seconds.
That bit of history meant less to the Devils than their overall impressive effort against one of the NHL’s best early season performers, particularly after losing their only two games in the previous nine days.
”It feels good because we believe the Kings are one of the better teams, with a lot of skilled players on their team,” said Zubrus, who hadn’t scored in New Jersey’s first six games. ”Honestly, I’m not even sure how I scored. I think I was able to get a shot off initially, but I’m not sure what happened after that. I was falling down.”
Patrik Elias had a goal and an assist as the Devils snapped the Kings’ four-game winning streak with their second win over Los Angeles this month. Petr Sykora, who missed the morning skate with an illness, had two assists in New Jersey’s second stop on a four-game road trip.
”As a team, I thought that was probably our best game,” said Devils captain Zach Parise, who moved from left wing to center for the first time in a few years. ”We played smart. I think we really fixed the things that were going wrong for us against Pittsburgh and San Jose.”
The Devils beat the Kings for the second time in two weeks, following a 2-1 shootout win in Newark on Oct. 13.
Jonathan Bernier stopped 20 shots while Kings coach Terry Murray gave a night off to Jonathan Quick, who set a club record with three consecutive shutouts last week. Although New Jersey is the only team to beat Quick this season, coach Terry Murray still gave this start to Bernier, the highly regarded backup who lost his only previous appearance this season.
”You can dissect this whole thing any way you want, (but) Bernier was fine,” Murray said. ”He made some big stops in the first period after we gave up some quality chances, so he played well. But this was not about the goaltending. This is all about managing the puck, and turnovers, and giveaways that ended up being very easy goals against.”
Hedberg was rarely tested in his fourth consecutive start in place of injured Martin Brodeur. The NHL’s career victories leader has been out with an injured right shoulder ever since the Devils beat Los Angeles 12 days earlier, and is unlikely to play on the rest of New Jersey’s trip.
”I think we really kept our team close together, played smart, and didn’t take any unnecessary penalties,” Hedberg said.
Los Angeles was off to an outstanding start with 11 points in its first seven games, but scoring might be a problem again this season. The Kings have just three goals in their last three games, and they have scored more than three goals just once this season.
”It felt like we were out of sync offensively,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ”Our support was off. With our system, we’re going to be in some tight one-goal games. We’ve got to find a way to generate more pucks to the net and simplify our game a little bit. Sometimes we get a little too cute with the puck, and the result is not enough shots. We’ve got to get pucks to the net and bodies to the net.”
Two minutes after Zubrus’ streak-snapper, Andy Greene forced a turnover before Sykora made a cross-ice pass to Elias for his fourth goal of the season. Zubrus added his second goal on a stoppable shot with 1:34 left in the period.
Notes: The crowd at Staples Center booed Devils LW Ilya Kovalchuk every time he touched the puck. Kovalchuk spent most of the 2010 offseason flirting with the Kings as a free agent before agreeing to a huge contract to stay in New Jersey. … Drew Doughty, the Kings’ $56 million defenseman, missed his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury. Doughty has returned to portions of practice. … Devils LW Eric Boulton missed his second straight game with an injured right hand. … Former UFC heavyweight champion Bas Rutten attended the game.