The New Jersey Devils 2010 season hasn't been what anyone expected.
But in a sea of negatives, the Devils were able to end their season on a positive note, defeating the Atlanta Thrashers, 2-1, tonight at the Prudential Center.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Devils, who hadn't won since December 15 against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Mark Fayne opened the scoring, putting the Devils ahead, 1-0, at 1:18 of the first period. Jason Arnott won a faceoff in the Thrashers zone and shoveled the puck back to Fayne. The Devils' defenseman fired a shot that deflected off the stick of Atlanta's Anthony Stewart and fluttered over the shoulder of Chris Mason for the goal.
It was Fayne's fourth goal of the year.
The Devils hadn't brought a lead into the first intermission since their win over the Coyotes.
Jamie Langenbrunner extended the lead to 2-0 at 1:01 of the second period. Arnott was involved in the play again, forcing a turnover behind the Thrashers' net. The Devils' center sent a pass to Langenbrunner in the low slot. Langenbrunner one-timed the puck off the stick of Stewart and past Mason.
Langenbrunner's goal was only his fourth of the season and his first since November 10.
Dustin Byfuglien cut the lead to 2-1 at 12:14 of the third period. Byfuglien pinched down from the blueline and parked himself in the slot. Alexander Burmistrov sent a backhanded pass from the side boards toward Byfuglien, and the big defenseman re-directed the puck past Johan Hedberg for his 15th goal of the year.
Byfuglien's 15 goals are most among defensemen.
Ilya Kovalchuk iced the win with a breakaway goal at 13:40 of the final period. Kovalchuk stripped Brent Sopel of the puck at the right point of the Devils' zone and gathered the loose puck at the Thrashers' blueline. He cut to the middle and fought through a Bryan Little hook to put the puck past Mason's pads for his ninth goal of the season.
Johan Hedberg stopped 28 shots for his fifth win of the season. That ties him with Martin Brodeur for the team lead.
Tonight's three goal output was the most for the Devils in their past six games.
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire felt relieved after the win.
"It's like my first win ever," Lemaire told reporters. "Relief."
And as the calendar turns to 2011, the team can feel some relief at a positive ending to a hellish year.
Kovalchuk's goal was only his fourth during 5-on-5 play this season...Fayne dropped the gloves with Chris Thorburn with 4:59 left in the second period. Thorburn won easily...The Devils finished with 30+ hits for the second straight game...Rolston, who cleared re-entry waivers yesterday, did not play tonight.