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
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
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
”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
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
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
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
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
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.