Johan Hedberg last played 10 days ago, but got the call from coach Peter DeBoer to start Frkiday's afternoon matinee against the New York Islanders.
The Devils' backup showed no signs of rust, stopping all 23 shots he faced to shut out the Islanders, 1-0, today at Nassau Coliseum.
"He was great," DeBoer told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "That's what we need. He's a consummate pro. He sits and waits for his turn and then comes and pitches a game like that. That's exactly what we needed."
Hedberg's most important save came with 7:50 left in the third period. While shorthanded, Michael Grabner intercepted a pass from Adam Larsson and raced toward the Devils zone. Ilya Kovalchuk dragged him down near the slot, and the referees awarded Grabner a penalty shot.
The Islanders forward skated wide, and cut across the front of the net. Hedberg stretched out his glove hand, swiping the puck out of the air to deny Grabner the chance.
It was the third penalty shot Hedberg faced this season. He stopped Nashville's Sergei Kostitsyn on October 15 and gave up a goal to Philadelphia's Max Talbot on November 3.
"He was in the zone," DeBoer told Gulitti. "I just got the feeling tonight that you could shoot all night and he wasn't going to let something in. He just had that sense in the net."
Petr Sykora scored for the Devils, netting the only goal of the game at 14:13 of the second period. Larsson held the puck at the point and tried to put a slapshot towards the net. His stick broke, and the puck found Sykora in the high slot. The right wing collected the puck and fired a wrist shot past Al Montoya for his fifth goal of the season.
Montoya stopped 22 shots in the loss. It's the first time he's lost in regulation to the Devils.
The win was the Devils fifth straight over the Islanders. It's the fourth straight win decided by one goal. The win was New Jersey's eighth in their last 11 games. They sit in a tie for third in the division with the New York Rangers.
The Islanders continued to struggle offensively. Tonight was the sixth time in 20 games they've been shut out. They've lost four straight games, with opponents blanking them three times.
The teams have a quick turnaround, as they face off in the second game of a home-and-home series Saturday at the Prudential Center.
Patrik Elias did not record a point in today's game, ending his four game point streak...Larsson extended his point streak to four games. That's a career high...Cam Janssen and Michael Haley dropped the gloves in the first period. It was the only fight of the game.