Jacques Lemaire’s hunch to play Mattias Tedenby in overtime paid off in a big way for the Devils on Tuesday.
Tedenby scored his second of the game at 2:42 of the extra session to cap a 3-2 comeback victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at Prudential Center.
The 20-year-old rookie took a drop pass from Travis Zajac inside the blue line and walked to the slot before beating Cam Ward’s blocker for his seventh of the season.
“Travis Zajac brought the puck up in the zone, dropped it for me, a very nice pass and brought the Carolina players to him,” Tedenby said. “It gave me a lot of space there.”
Tedenby gripped it and ripped it – he wasn’t even looking to place his shot.
“No, actually I just shot it,” he said. “It went in this time.”
Tedenby's first career two-goal game lifted the Devils (20-30-4) to a 10-1-2 mark in the second half. They have collected points in five straight games since the All-Star break.
Lemaire said he doesn’t often use Tedenby in 4-on-4 situations because of flaws in his defensive game. But the coach rode the hot hand to snag a vital two points for the Devils’ playoff push.
“I thought he was good in the offensive zone with the puck; he was making things happen,” Lemaire explained. “He was probably the best offensive player tonight, overall.”
Tedenby saw just 6:13 of ice time during Sunday’s win in Montreal, when he didn’t have a shift after the 13:27 mark of the second period. He felt he performed better on Tuesday and earned his playing time late in the game.
“A lot of players were very good last game in Montreal, and they were worth playing that game,” Tedenby said. “Tonight I was good and I played the third period.”
Every win’s big right now. But I think to come from behind and win like that, obviously it feels great. It’s something that maybe a month or two ago might not have happened, but right now it feels like we’re getting those bounces and taking advantage of our opportunities.- Nick Palmieri
Nick Palmieri tied it with 2:54 to go in regulation, scoring his fifth of the year on an Ilya Kovalchuk rebound. Kovalchuk sliced 1-on-4 through Carolina’s defense before Palmieri, trailing the play, put Kovalchuk’s rebound inside the left post over Ward’s right shoulder.
“Every win’s big right now,” Palmieri said. “But I think to come from behind and win like that, obviously it feels great. It’s something that maybe a month or two ago might not have happened, but right now it feels like we’re getting those bounces and taking advantage of our opportunities.”
With 28 games to go, they trail Carolina by 15 points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“The next game mindset is keeping us in every game right now,” Palmieri said. “If you look too far ahead, you start to lose a little bit of focus. I think by taking it one game at a time, we’ve been able to keep our focus and compete in every game.”
Lemaire's squad battles Carolina two more times next week. Those meetings could prove pivotal in the Devils' quest to reach the postseason for a 14th consecutive year.
“We have to take one game at a time,” Kovalchuk said. “I think when we’re closer to the end, we’ll see what the picture will be and we’ll talk about it.”
Johan Hedberg started in place of Martin Brodeur, who is day to day with a knee sprain. There is no timetable for Brodeur’s return. Hedberg finished with 20 saves and was backed up by Mike McKenna, recalled Tuesday from Albany (AHL).
Palmieri has five goals in his last 11 games.
Jeff Skinner’s second power-play goal of the game broke a 1-1 tie at 8:37 of the third. The 18-year-old rookie slid an Eric Staal rebound under Hedberg’s outstretched stick paddle to give Carolina the lead. The Devils kept their poise until the rookies – Palmieri, then Tedenby – responded.
“I was kind of feeling that if kept pressing, kept working hard, one was going to come,” Palmieri said. “We stuck to our plan and we ended up pulling out the win, so it feels good.”
Anton Volchenkov took three minor penalties and was in the box for both Skinner goals. The Devils did not have a power play in the game.
Skinner’s first gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead with their first shot of the second period. With Volchenkov in the box for elbowing Zach Boychuk, Skinner carried to the bottom of the left circle. His sharp-angle shot got a piece of Hedberg before squeezing through the shortside for his 19th at 9:22.
Tedenby answered with his sixth of the season and first in eight games. When Colin White’s blast from the point went wide, Jason Arnott backhanded the endboard rebound to Tedenby, who was alone in front at 11:31 of the second.
Patrik Elias misfired on a shorthanded breakaway late in the scoreless first. He moved in on Ward from the left circle, then tried a quick cut back across to his forehand. He lost control of the puck before he could stuff it around Ward’s right pad with 4:50 to go.
Arnott hit the post with the game tied, 1-1, in the third. He wound up for a slapshot from outside the blue line that went off Ward’s left pad, then off the right post at 5:08.
Elias was robbed by Ward with 14.4 seconds to go in regulation. Tedenby passed cross-slot to Elias for a bang-bang play at the left side of the net, but Ward made a pad stop, then denied Elias’ follow up attempt on the rebound.
David Clarkson dropped the gloves for a fight with Jay Harrison at 10:03 of the second.
Coach's Quotes Tedenby elected not to participate in Tuesday's optional morning skate. Might Lemaire tell him to skip them more often?
"Him, maybe. Not the other guys," Lemaire said.
His team's confidence helped fuel the comeback.
"Yeah, that's all," he said. "Because I don't think the effort was there. I didn't like the way we played. I didn't like our top players. I didn't like the guys that had a day off [Monday]. I didn't like some of our defensemen. I didn't like a lot of stuff."
Lemaire said the lack of power play chances was attributable to a sluggish work ethic.
"You know, you don't like the way we are playing. We feel that we don't play hard enough, that's the reason why we don't get a power play. It's that simple."
His young players are impressing.
"If we talk about Nick [Palmieri], he may be a young guy, but he's playing like a veteran right now. He's a player that – I know how he's playing right now, I don't know tomorrow – but up to today, I do have a lot of confidence in the kid. On either side of the ice he's good. With or without the puck, he's good.
"Teddy has to improve a little bit certain areas. But offensively, he's really good."
Kovalchuk extended his points streak to five games (3 goals, 3 assists). Zajac stretched his to three games (2 goals, 3 assists). … The Devils visit Toronto on Thursday, then return home to host San Jose on Friday. … Devils are 5-0-1 in their last six home games.
1 - 0 CAR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 CAR
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NJD