The veteran goalie, who was mired in an 0-6-1 slump entering Thursday's game against the Buffalo Sabres, turned aside 23 shots and received some aide from the post behind him to help lead the Devils to a 3-2 shootout victory against Buffalo before 17,625 at Prudential Center.
David Clarkson and Patrik Elias scored in the shootout against Sabres goalie Ryan Miller after the Devils rallied for two late goals in regulation to send the game to overtime. The shootout win was their first win in four tries after they won 12 times in the tiebreaker last season.
"I got some breaks, they hit posts, and we got a couple goals … sometimes that's the difference," Hedberg said. "It's a game of margins, but I think we deserved to win. We've been playing as hard as we can the last eight or 10 days and haven't got the results."
Pominville barely missed giving the visitors the victory 3:52 into overtime when his slap shot from the right circle beat Hedberg but rang off the long-side post.
"I knew it wasn't in," Hedberg said. "It didn't feel like it was in. It was good shot and bounced back to me. I needed that break."
The break came just 15 seconds after Miller, who was filling in for injured starter Jhonas Enroth, made a sliding save against Devils defenseman Andy Greene. The victory snapped the Devils six-game losing streak.
Elias connected for the equalizer when he ripped a shot past Jhonas Enroth off a rebound from low in the right circle. Clarkson took the initial blast from the point just after Hedberg skated off for the extra attacker.
"When I saw Patrik score, I said, 'Finally,' " Hedberg said. "Here we go. I just got to the bench and we threw the sixth guy in there and to see him put it in, it was very nice. I think we played great; turnovers had been hurting us lately so this was good."
Enroth, who was out of position when Elias picked up the puck in the circle, remained on the ice for a few minutes after the tying goal with 1:06 remaining in regulation.
He admitted to suffering from severe right leg cramps in the third which forced him from the game after the Elias goal. Enroth was helped off the ice after yielding two goals on 29 shots. Miller, who started the Sabres' previous 14 games before getting a breather Thursday night, made four saves prior to the shootout.
At the end of the game, Enroth admitted he needs to take better care of his body. The 24-year-old, who last celebrated a victory on Nov. 26, 2011, was making his first start since a loss to Ottawa on Feb. 5.
"He'll make adjustments … this was a real positive for him," Buffalo coach Ron Rolston said. "Obviously, it's disappointing he couldn't get the win because he deserved it, but he'll be back."
The Devils pulled within 2-1 when Henrique took a feed from Ilya Kovalchuk and ripped a shot from high in the left circle that was stopped. The rebound came right back to Henrique, who made no mistake in notching his seventh of the season with 6:30 remaining in regulation.
"It's a nice one to get," Henrique said. "We can take a little extra breathe. Moose [Hedberg] was great for us throughout and in the shootout. He made some big saves at the big times. We knew what we needed to do and kept our heads up the whole game. Their goalie [Enroth] played great game but we never quit."
The fact the Devils kept battling, even after allowing the first goal for the eighth straight game, was something coach Peter DeBoer admired in his group.
"Our guys deserved two points," he said. "It's been a while coming. What I liked tonight, even in the 2-0 hole, we kept our game and didn't open it up. We hung around and found a way to tie it up. We were due for a bounce. We've been working here for the last week or two, and finally got it."
He was also glad to see Hedberg get his first win since beating Pittsburgh on Feb. 10.
"That's the Hedberg we know and I think our group helped him out too and gave him a little better performance in front," DeBoer said.
The Sabres led 2-0 on a second-period power-play goal by Vanek and a third-period score by rookie Brian Flynn. Flynn's goal, his first in the NHL, came off a turnover in the right-wing corner by Devils captain Bryce Salvador. Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera knocked down the puck in front of Hedberg before Flynn found it and scored in his fourth NHL game.
The Sabres opened a 1-0 lead 7:06 into the second when Vanek ripped a power-play shot from the point past Hedberg off a great dish from the right circle by Tyler Ennis. It was Vanek's sixth power-play goal of the season; the Sabres have scored just 11 goals with the man advantage in 2012-13.
Enroth's best save of the game came 14:31 into the second when he robbed Clarkson on a rebound by extending his glove hand to stop a shot from the slot that was ticketed for the short side. Clarkson was in prime position following an initial save off a left point shot by Elias. After the remarkable save, Clarkson appeared in disbelief, looking at the Buffalo goalie before skating back to his bench.
The Devils travel to PNC Arena to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday before returning home against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. The Sabres, 3-2-1 in the past six games, are off until they visit Philadelphia on Sunday.
Despite the loss, Rolston said it certainly wasn't a wasted effort.
"We would have liked a better outcome, but we're doing things a lot better than we were," Rolston said. "The guys are fighting. We're on the road and we'll bounce back."
|PPG - Thomas Vanek (13) ASST: Tyler Ennis (11), Steve Ott (9)|
1 - 0 BUF
|Brian Flynn (1) ASST: Andrej Sekera (4), Marcus Foligno (8)|
2 - 0 BUF
|PPG - Adam Henrique (7) ASST: Ilya Kovalchuk (13)|
2 - 1 BUF
|Patrik Elias (7) ASST: David Clarkson (8), Andy Greene (7)|
2 - 2 Tie
|1||I. Kovalchuk||T. Vanek||0 - 0|
|2||D. Clarkson||J. Pominville||1 - 0|
|3||P. Elias||2 - 0|
|Tyler Ennis Hi-sticking against Mark Fayne|
|Johan Hedberg Interference against Brian Flynn|
|Mike Weber Hi-sticking against Patrik Elias|
|Mark Fayne Holding against Christian Ehrhoff|
|Anton Volchenkov Tripping against Brian Flynn|
|Christian Ehrhoff Holding against Patrik Elias|
|Travis Zajac Roughing against Tyler Ennis|
|Tyler Ennis Roughing against Travis Zajac|