Stoner's First NHL Goal Leads Wild Past Devils, 2-1

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Stoner's First NHL Goal Leads Wild Past Devils, 2-1

Clayton Stoner's first career goal perfectly embodied the New Jersey Devils' terrible season.

The Minnesota Wild rookie, carrying the puck through center ice, went to dump the puck into the Devils' zone. His attempt deflected off the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk and off the glass in the Devils zone. The puck, suddenly changing directions, caught Johan Hedberg behind the net. As it bounced toward the open net, all Hedberg could do was dive in vain as the puck slid into the open net.

That goal would prove decisive as the Wild defeated the Devils, 2-1, tonight at the Prudential Center.

With the win, Minnesota broke a four-game winless streak in New Jersey (0-4-3). It's the franchise's first win in the Garden State.

During the first period, it seemed the Wild would run away with the game. They came out the better team, beating the Devils to loose pucks and using their forecheck to pin New Jersey in their defensive zone. 

That opportunistic play paid off, as Cal Clutterbuck put the Wild ahead, 1-0, at 11:48 of the first period. The play started when Ilya Kovalchuk fell along his own blue line, leaving a loose puck in the neutral zone. Clutterbuck corralled the puck and sped around Anssi Salmela, who also fell on the play. The Wild right-winger drove into the right circle and beat Hedberg high for his 11th goal of the season.

Minnesota's offensive pressure wouldn't end there. The Wild outshot the Devils, 8-1, during the first period. The lone shot on goal was the lowest output for Devils in one period this season. 

Devils' head coach Jacques Lemaire was displeased with his team's play, telling the media "I'm just (ticked)." He refused to elaborate on the quote.

New Jersey turned things around in the second period. The Devils came out firing, using an early powerplay to gain momentum. That play helped turn the tide and tie the game.

Kovalchuk atoned for his early mistake by tying the game, 1-1, at 3:07 of the middle period. Travis Zajac set up Kovalchuk for a shot from the left circle. The Devils left-winger placed his shot past the jumping screen of Nick Palmieri and the pad of Jose Theodore for his team-leading 10th goal of the season.

Palmieri, who assisted on the play, recorded his first point this season. He has two career NHL points, both assists.

But then came the unlucky bounce to sink the Devils. After that goal, the Devils wouldn't respond, failing to put much pressure on Theodore and the Wild defense.

Theodore finished with 21 saves for the win. Hedberg stopped 16 saves in the loss.

Lemaire wouldn't blame the bad bounce for the Devils' loss.

"It's not the bounce," Lemaire told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. "You can say they were lucky in a way to win because of the bounce. That's not how I look at it."

Kovalchuk agreed.

"We have to score more. We can't play a first period like that. One shot," Kovalchuk said to Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger. "You're not going to win a lot of games when you score one goal."

Hedberg took blame for misplaying the puck.

"My instinct is to go and get it on the rim. I probably have to be more selective whether I go or not," he told Chere. "It's hurt me. When it hit the (upright near the bench) I lost track of it. When I see it it's on its way to the empty net. When I got back there I dived for it and it took another bounce over me."

The loss leaves the Devils winless in 2010. They've now lost 13 of their last 15 games. At 10-27-2, the Devils have matched their losses from last season. New Jersey is also only three games ahead of their worst team in franchise history. That team, the 1983-84 team, was 7-30-2 at this point.

The team also fell to 1-5-0 under interim head coach Jacques Lemaire.

Game Notes

Brian Rolston played his first game after clearing re-entry waivers tonight. He missed the Devils past two games...After missing 34 games with a broken hand, Mark Fraser returned to the Devils lineup...Theodore won two consecutive games for the first time this season...With tonight's loss on home ice, the Devils ran their pitiful home record to 6-12-2.



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Minnesota Wild at New Jersey Devils: Kovalchuk Goal Ties Game, 1-1, After Two Periods

The Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils are tied, 1-1, after two periods tonight at the Prudential Center.

The Devils led the period in shots, 14-4. They lead in overall shots, 15-12.

Ilya Kovalchuk tied the game, 1-1, at 3:07 of the period. Travis Zajac set up Kovalchuk for a shot from the left circle. The Devils' left-winger put his shot past the jumping screen of Nick Palmieri and Jose Theodore's pads for his team-leading 10th goal of the season.

Palmieri, who assisted on the goal, recorded his first point this season and second of his career.

After being outshot, 8-1, in the first period, the Devils offense woke up in the middle frame. By the 7:25 mark of the second period, the Devils had outshot the Wild, 8-1, to pull even in shots.

As noted by beat writer Michelle Kenneth, Devils' defenseman Anssi Salmela did not play during the second period. He logged 3:33 of ice time in the first period.

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Minnesota Wild vs. New Jersey Devils: Clutterbuck Goal Puts Wild Ahead, 1-0, After One Period

The Minnesota Wild lead the New Jersey Devils, 1-0, after one period tonight at the Prudential Center.

The Wild led the period in shots, 8-1.

The one shot on net was a season low in a single period for New Jersey this season. Their previous low was three.

Cal Clutterbuck put the Wild ahead, 1-0, at 11:48 of the period. The play started when Ilya Kovalchuk fell down carrying the puck in the neutral zone. Devils' defenseman Anssi Salmela also fell as Clutterbuck skated around him. He carried the puck into the left circle and fired a shot over Johan Hedberg for his 11th goal of the season.

Clutterbuck almost put Minnesota ahead earlier in the period. With the Devils on the powerplay, Clutterbuck stripped Kovalchuk of the puck near the Devils blue line. The Wild forward broke in on a short powerplay, but Hedberg used a poke check to knock the puck away.

The Devils were badly outplayed during the first period. Minnesota controlled play throughout, and wouldn't allow the Devils to set up in their own zone. Even with a powerplay, the Devils couldn't do anything offensively. The Wild beat them to every loose puck and looked quicker throughout the period.

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Minnesota Wild at New Jersey Devils: Hedberg Starts As Lemaire Faces Former Team

Jacques Lemaire coached the Minnesota Wild (18-15-5) for eight years, leading them to a 293-253-55-53 record. Lemaire also won the Jack Adams Trophy and brought the team to the Western Conference Finals in 2002-03.

But today's matchup with his former team holds no special significance.

"At this time, where we're at, I just don't look at the team we're playing," Lemaire told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. "I have so many things to think about, I don't have time to think about the other team."

The New Jersey Devils will look for their first win of 2011 as they face off against the Wild tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

The Wild may embody the perfect opponent for the Devils. New Jersey is 7-1-2 all time against Minnesota and currently hold a four-game win streak. They've scored 16 goals over the Wild in those four wins.

Despite a league-worst 10-26-2 record, the Devils have shown recent signs of improvement under Lemaire. The team scored at least three goals in consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 10-12. Patrik Elias continues to produce, recording three points (one goal, two assists) in the five games Lemaire has coached.

Lemaire is beginning to see improvement from his team.

"It (the Devils season) went bad because you keep losing and you dig yourself a hole. And you're losing again and you're losing again and you keep losing and that hole becomes too deep to get out," Lemaire said to Gulitti. "That's exactly where we were. We're starting to climb now. That's why we need everyone to chip in and to get out of it."

The Devils took a step backward in a 6-3 loss on New Year's Day to the Carolina Hurricanes. Martin Brodeur continued to struggle, allowing three goals on seven shots before being pulled only eight minutes into the game. Johan Hedberg stopped 15 shots in relief and took the loss.

With his future Hall of Fame goalie struggling, Lemaire will give Hedberg the start tonight against the Wild.

"I went with Marty (in Carolina), didn't win," Lemaire told Gulitti. "Come back with him (Hedberg) and we'll see after."

Hedberg wouldn't read into his second start in three games.

"Not more than I'm getting prepared to play the game tomorrow," Hedberg told Gulitti. "That's all my focus is. I want to play as good as I can to try to get a win."

Hedberg is 4-1-0 with three ties and a 2.00 goals-against average against Minnesota.

The Wild, winless in New Jersey, have won two of three games after defeating the Phoenix Coyotes, 6-5, in overtime on Sunday. Andrew Burnette recorded two goals, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard tied the game with 26 seconds left. Bouchard also assisted on Cam Barker's game-winning goal.

Even with his past history coaching the Wild, Lemaire believed solely focusing on them would hurt the team.

"If your team is not working and that's the main problem, even if you talk about the other team and what they're doing, is it going to help?" Lemaire said to Gulitti. "It won't help. You have to get them to work first. You've got to get the guys to skate before we're going to talk about the other team. (We) talk about is and what we're going to do to be successful."


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