Devils 2, Ducks 1

When Alexander Vasyunov found himself on a line with Ilya

Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias in just his second NHL game, the young

Russian simply hoped he wouldn’t appear hopelessly out of

place.

He ended up getting a souvenir puck from a skid-snapping win for

the New Jersey Devils.

Vasyunov earned his first career point while setting up Elias’

tiebreaking goal early in the third period, and the Devils ended

their three-game slide with a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on

Friday night.

Captain Jamie Langenbrunner also scored and Martin Brodeur made

27 saves for the Devils, who had lost five of six while plummeting

to the bottom of the NHL standings. After losing in the first two

stops of their six-game trip, the Devils halted the slide with a

tight-checking defensive game.

New Jersey also got an unexpected boost from Vasyunov, who

returned from the AHL one day earlier and found himself playing

with two linemates boasting a combined 1,407 points. After getting

on the board himself with a sharp setup pass to Elias for a

one-timer with 18:06 to play, he also blocked a shot in the waning

minutes.

”It’s a big game for me, and I felt good, just nervous a little

bit,” Vasyunov said while fumbling with the cufflinks on his

designer peach-colored shirt, struggling to get dressed in time to

catch the team bus.

”I feel like I’ve played two years in the NHL, not two games,”

Vasyunov said. ”I’m not nervous – I mean, yeah, for sure I’m

nervous, but it feels good to play between two playmakers like

that.”

After celebrating Elias’ goal in a defense-dominated game,

Kovalchuk fetched the puck for Vasyunov’s mantel. Although the

Devils’ $100 million forward went scoreless for the fourth time in

five games, coach John MacLean praised Kovalchuk’s work just six

days after benching the superstar for one game.

”We needed it real bad, because this road trip could be tough

for us,” Kovalchuk said. ”If we play the way we did here, we’ll

be OK. We played a solid defensive game, and we got two points for

it.”

Kovalchuk is sure to be hit with heavy boos Saturday night when

the Devils drive up the I-5 to face the Los Angeles Kings, who

ardently courted Kovalchuk for two months before he re-signed with

New Jersey.

Both teams looked shaky in their only meeting of the season, but

the Devils hung on late for a win they desperately needed. New

Jersey slid into last place overall with just five points in its

first 10 games, an inauspicious start for a franchise with 18

consecutive winning seasons.

”It’s been tough for the guys, but hopefully now it’ll get a

little easier,” said Brodeur, who picked up his 605th victory.

Jason Blake scored a power-play goal and Jonas Hiller stopped 25

shots for Anaheim, which came back flat from a four-game trip. The

Ducks haven’t won back-to-back games this season, although they

outshot an opponent (28-27) for just the third time.

”We’re not playing as well as we’re supposed to, and this was

almost a must-win,” said Hiller, just 3-5-1 despite a .917 save

percentage. ”We just couldn’t find a way. Every time you think

you’ve got it going, we play a game like tonight and lose again. It

would be great if we could get a little streak going, but it seems

like we go out there every night and no one knows what to

expect.”

After killing off four New Jersey power plays, the Ducks

capitalized on their first man-advantage when Blake forced his own

rebound underneath Brodeur in the second period. Just 2 1/2 minutes

later, Langenbrunner slipped a sharp-angled shot between Hiller’s

pads for his first goal in the Devils’ 11 games.

After Elias’ goal, the Ducks vainly pressed the attack against

New Jersey’s trap throughout the final period.

”That’s their game plan – to get that lead and try to hold it

for the rest of the game,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who

failed to score for just the second time in eight games. ”They’re

an excellent team at doing that, and they beat us at their game

tonight.”

NOTES: Ducks executive Scott Niedermayer spent part of the game

chatting with Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello. Niedermayer

spent 12 years in the New Jersey organization before joining

Anaheim in 2005. … Ducks rookie D Cam Fowler skated and practiced

Thursday, but didn’t play. The teenager has missed five straight

games because of a neck injury.