Devils 2, Flyers 1, SO

The strong play of backup goalie Johan Hedberg has made the

absence of Martin Brodeur less painful for the New Jersey

Devils.

Hedberg made his fourth straight start Saturday and the Devils

beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in a shootout.

With Brodeur sidelined by a bruised elbow, Hedberg made 40 saves

through overtime, and then stopped three of four Flyers in the

shootout.

”I think it’s a team thing for me,” Hedberg said. ”We started

something good a few games ago. It’s put the goaltender in a

different position. We’re way more sound. That’s the way we’ve got

to play.”

With Hedberg holding off the top offensive team in the NHL, the

Devils pulled out their third win in the last four games. After a

5-13-2 start, New Jersey is trying to get back into the playoff

chase.

”It was a good week for us,” Devils coach John MacLean said.

”We need to look that we got six of eight points. Going into next

week, if we keep doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

Travis Zajac scored in the fourth round of the shootout to give

the Devils the victory.

After the first four shooters missed, Nikolay Zherdev drilled a

shot between Hedberg’s pads. Jason Arnott countered against Brian

Boucher to keep the Devils alive.

Mike Richards led off the fourth round and hit the post. That

set the stage for Zajac, who beat Boucher with a neat fake.

”That’s the way we’re going to have to play the rest of the

year,” Zajac said. ”Points are important, especially since we’ve

fallen behind. Hedberg is the reason why we’ve been in these games.

He kept us in the game and gave us some momentum.”

Adam Mair scored the regulation goal for the Devils.

Danny Briere scored on a power play in the third period for

Philadelphia. This was the Flyers’ second straight shootout loss,

one they attributed to a strong effort by Hedberg.

”He played well,” Boucher said. ”He kept his team in there.

He played solid. After that first period, we seemed to pick up our

play and get more shots but you’ve got give Hedberg credit.”

Mair pickec the upper left corner from the right circle at 11:49

of the opening period, his first goal of the season.

Mair’s goal was a relief for the Devils, who squandered an

excellent opportunity when the Flyers’ Scott Hartnell got a

double-minor for high-sticking Brian Rolston 1:52 into the game.

New Jersey couldn’t cash in on the four-minute advantage. Ilya

Kovalchuk had the best chance on a slapper from the left circle

that Boucher blocked.

The Flyers’ best opportunities came late in the period, with

Hedberg coming up big against Jeff Carter’s drive from the left

faceoff dot.

Hedberg stopped 12 shots in the second period as the Devils

clung to the 1-0 lead.

Hedberg came way out of the net to stop Ville Leino and was

sharp again when Carter had another close-in try.

The Devils’ best chances in the period came from David Clarkson,

set up nicely by Mair only to be denied by Boucher’s diving save,

and Rolston, who hit the post.

The Flyers pressed hard for the equalizer early in the third and

came close several times. Hedberg stopped Carter again, diving out

to block a shot and he also had some luck as Leino hit the post on

a shot from the slot. The relentless pressure finally paid off as

Briere banked a close-in shot off Hedberg for a power-play goal at

8:38.

”We progressed and got better as the game went on,” Flyers

coach Peter Laviolette said. ”We fought for a point in the third

period. Hedberg was pretty good, but our guy was too.”

Kovalchuk blew the best chance of the overtime, flubbing a

perfect feed in the slot from Zajac.

Notes: The game concluded a busy stretch for the Flyers, who

played 10 times in 17 days. … It was the first meeting between

the teams since the Flyers beat the Devils in five games in last

season’s opening-round playoff series. … Mair signed with the

Devils as a free agent on Oct. 12. The goal was his 38th in 571

games.