Hedberg kept Devils rolling against the Islanders. (Getty/NHL Images)
UNIONDALE – The Devils spotted Johan Hedberg one goal, and he made it stand up for a big divisional victory Friday at Nassau Coliseum.
Hedberg made 23 saves for his second shutout of the season, 19th of his career, leading the Devils to a 1-0 win over the New York Islanders.
Petr Sykora's power-play tally in the second period was the game's only goal.
Hedberg produced two pivotal stops: he foiled Michael Grabner's breakaway 20 seconds into the third period, then gloved Grabner's shorthanded penalty shot with 7:10 remaining.
"I know I've seen him last year, he had quite a few breakaways during the year," Hedberg said. "He's an extremely fast guy. I've seen him shoot the puck, I've seen him deke a couple of times, so I just wanted to kind of surprise him there [on the breakaway]."
Hedberg decided on a different strategy on the penalty shot, already the third he's faced this season.
He was great – that's what we need. He's a consummate pro: he sits and waits for his turn, then comes in and pitches a game like that. It's exactly what we need.- Coach Peter DeBoer on Johan Hedberg
"The first one I just tried to surprise him," Hedberg said. "I was thinking about doing the same thing for the penalty shot, I didn't know if he picked up on what I did the first time, so I tried to stay patient and move with him."
The first stop on Grabner was a confidence builder.
"He came in the perfect position on the penalty shot for me to do it again," Hedberg said. "I thought he was probably thinking I would do it again, so I just tried to stay patient."
Both of Grabner's chances developed on Adam Larsson turnovers. On the second, he picked off a Larsson pass at intended for Ilya Kovalchuk at the left point on the power play and was taken down from behind on a breakaway.
"When [Larsson] was supposed to go left, he went right, and when he was supposed to go right, he went left," coach Peter DeBoer said. "He's going to have nights like that. Thankfully it worked out and we'll take the win."
The Devils (12-8-1) won their second in a row to improve to 8-3-0 in their last 11. The teams close out the home-and-home with a 1 p.m. puck drop Saturday at Prudential Center.
Janssen battled Micheal Haley in an energetic first-period bout.
DeBoer's club will look to build off Friday's contest as it tries for a three-game winning streak.
"We made the right plays at the right time," said DeBoer. "We shut down their speed in the neutral zone through the second and third periods, for the most part. We didn't start the way we wanted to with the penalties. We kind of took ourselves out of the game early, but our penalty kill and our goaltender bailed us out and gave us a chance to get our legs."
The Devils' top-ranked penalty kill took care of business going 4-for-4. That included three straight stops in the first period, when New Jersey allowed just three shots on the New York power play.
They have killed all 21 opponent chances over the last four games.
"Great penalty killing," Hedberg said. "Even though they had three [in the first], I don't think they had a lot of scoring chances on those. That's a part of our game that's been really strong and it has to continue being that."
When Zach Parise was given a high sticking minor late in the third period, Hedberg stood tall, denying John Tavares with a quick left pad save with five minutes to go.
"He was great," DeBoer said of Hedberg, who was making his first start since Nov. 15 at Boston. "That's what we need. He's a consummate pro: he sits and waits for his turn, then comes in and pitches a game like that. It's exactly what we need."
The tandem of Hedberg and Martin Brodeur, who starts Saturday, is getting it done for the Devils.
"Marty played really well last game against Columbus, and Johan was obviously great tonight with that big penalty shot save and their power play at the end," Parise said. "Both of them have been playing really well."
Sykora's fifth of the season, first on the power play, was the difference. Larsson broke his stick on a shot attempt and the puck slid to Sykora, who beat Al Montoya from the slot at 14:13.
"I had a good one-timer a couple of shifts before, kind of wide of the post," Sykora said. "I had time, so I just wanted to try to hit the blocker high, and it worked out. You don't get too many chances like that when you have so much time."
Cam Janssen got things started with a bang. He dropped gloves with Micheal Haley just 1:54 into the contest, and the two traded some big punches before each receiving five for fighting.
Hedberg made a good right pad save on P.A. Parenteau's chance through a scramble on the second New York power play. On the third, Parise got loose down the left side for a shorthanded break, but was pressured by Andrew MacDonald. Parise released a quick wrist shot that Montoya stopped, then couldn't get a stick on the rebound with 8:22 left in the first.
Notes and quotes Hedberg on the penalty kill "I think that we're confident going on the PK. It's not like we're looking to take penalties, but when we come into that situation, we know we've been pretty successful. That certainly helps."
Hedberg on nerves "I'm always a little bit nervous, more or less. And if I'm not nervous, I'm nervous because I'm not nervous. Then I think that I'm not focused. I knew I had a feeling that I hadn't played for a while, I wanted to come out and really make sure I established an early position and play honest more than anything, and not try to read what's going to happen too much, instead of being square to the shooters and work my way into the situation."
DeBoer on his team's effort "I feel good. We're playing the right way. I think we're getting better and better, and I've seen more good things in our game every night that we play. Less hesitation in our systems, and things like that, and we're getting great goaltending – we have from Day 1."
• Hedberg's other shutout this year was Oct. 13 vs. Los Angeles. His other penalty shots this season came against Sergei Kostitsyn (save at Nashville, Oct 15) and Maxime Talbot (score at Philadelphia, Nov. 3).
• Parise switched to white stick tape for Friday's game after getting a tip from his brother, Jordan. "It's been a little bit of a struggle to find the back of the net, and he said try white tape. I liked it actually." Parise acknowledged the difference was all mental. "It's up here," he said, pointing to his head.
• All fans attending Saturday's game at the Rock are asked to bring a new or gently-used coat for the Devils' 16th annual Coat Drive to benefit Jersey Cares. … Brodeur had started four in a row before Hedberg's appearance Friday. … Brad Mills was added to the lineup for Nick Palmieri, who was assigned to Albany (AHL) on Thursday.