It was April 3rd when Johan Hedburg made his last NHL start. He did not go overseas or compete in any competitive league during the lockout. After Martin Brodeur started the first four games of the season, Hedburg got the tap to start against the Boston Bruins.
Moose did not show rust, and almost backstopped New Jersey to an impressive road win, but the Bruins scored a late regulation goal, and won it in the shootout 2-1. The Devils fell to 3-0-2 on the season.
Moose was the best player in a black and red sweater tonight. He bailed out his defense when they needed it, and looked poised; making 25 saves on the night. Not bad for a goaltender who hasn’t played a competitive game in 301 games.
Head Coach Peter DeBoer on his goaltenders performance, “Amazing. He was great. You take it for granted. You get used to those type of performances out of him.”
Following Sunday’s loss in Montreal, DeBoer challenged his players to have better starts. They have struggled in the opening minutes after the first face-off. The Bruins, playing their first back-to-back game after beating Carolina last night, applied early pressure, testing Hedburg from the get-go. The Devils held off the attack, but had few quality chances the rest of the period, despite ending the first period tied 9-9 in shots.
They cleaned up their play in the second period and took the first lead of the game on the powerplay. Marek Zidlicky’s point shot would be deflected by David Clarkson in the slot, getting it past the glove of Bruins goaltender Tukka Rask. That snapped the Bruins streak of 25 consecutive successful penalty kills. Clarkson’s tally was his team leading fourth of the season.
For most of the night though, both teams played smart, defensive hockey. The goaltenders played great, but the Bruins and Devils put a full effort in tonight. It had a playoff atmosphere around it. DeBoer was pleased despite the loss. He felt they played much better for 65 minutes than on Sunday against Montreal. He called it a “gritty, gutty road game”.
He was right. Everyone contributed in all three zones. It felt that the Devils needed to make it 2-0 to put it away. Rask never let it happen. He was the difference maker for Boston, finishing with 27 saves.
The Bruins broke through with 4:05 left in regulation to tie the game. As New Jersey made a line change, Boston rushed up the ice on a three on three. Nathan Horton would eventually have the puck on his stick inside the right circle. His low shot on goal was deflected by defenseman Henrik Tallinder, changing the pucks direction to go through Hedburg into the net. Afterwards, both teams seemed content to gain a point, and played conservative as regulation ended.
“Sure it’s tough,” Hedberg said. “Breaks in the game happen, and they got a good break there. We still had a good chance; a game like this can go any way. A tied game, a 1-0 game going into the third, you never know what is going to happen. You just chug away and hope to get the second one. Unfortunately, they got the chance to tie it up.”
New Jersey and Boston had their chances in overtime, but Rask and Moose stood tall. The contest went to a shootout. The Devils were 12-4 last season, but had to look for a replacement for Zach Parise’s spot (8-for-16 last year).
A strange occurrence on Boston’s first shot. Tyler Seguin came in on Johan Hedburg, followed by a half eaten hamburger/banana/pretzel/piece of debris that was thrown onto the ice. Seguin scored, but the referees ruled he had to redo it due to fan violation. Seguin scored again.
Ilya Kovalchuck would shoot next for New Jersey and bury the biscuit past Rask.
For the next four rounds, neither team could beat the goalies.
Round six would see Brad Marchand get one past Hedburg’s stick. Marek Zidlicky was the last hope for the Devils, but Rask stopped his shot, obtaining the win for his club.
DeBoer should still be pleased that his team has gained a point in every game this season, and has yet to lose in regulation. “The points are important. I’m more pleased with how we played tonight,” said the head coach.
NOTES: Last year, Hedburg had the third most wins for goaltenders that started under 40 games. He was behind Brian Elliot of STL (23 wins in 36 starts) and Corey Schneider of VAN (20 wins in 28 starts)…
…Stefan Matteau played in his fifth game for 8:56. He looked more comfortable on the top line with Kovalchuk and Zajac, taking two shots and playing well for the most part. Now team must decide if he will stay in New Jersey or return to his junior team in the QMJHL Matteau believes he’s done enough to stay with the big club. “I like to think so. I worked as hard as I could,” Matteau said. “Today we had a lot of (scoring) opportunities. It’s not up to me. It’s out of my control. I thought I played well.”
…Matt Anderson’s debut in the NHL was almost a storybook beginning. The 30-year old Long Island native was close to scoring his first goal in the 2nd period, but his tipped shot went wide of Rask. “It’s something you’ve worked so hard for so long. It was good to get the first one out of the way. It’s definitely nice to have that under my belt. Nobody can take that away from me.”
About the Author: Sports Reporter by day, puck stopper between the pipes at night. I was the Locker Room Reporter for the Islanders for WRHU-FM. Currently, I cover the New Jersey Devils on HockeyIndependent.com and Metro Area Hockey on BrooklynFans.com Follow me on Twitter @John_A_Iadevaia