NEWARK, N.J. -- Oh what a relief it is for New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer to have Johan Hedberg serving as backup to Martin Brodeur.
Fresh off his 24-save victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, Hedberg came off the bench for the final two periods of regulation, the five-minute overtime and subsequent shootout on Thursday night -- and was flawless as the Devils beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 at Prudential Center.
He stopped all 16 shots he faced, including five in the overtime, before turning aside Simon Gagne and Anze Kopitar in the shootout.
"The shootout is always a tossup but it's exciting," Hedberg said. "I try and keep a little mental book on the guys. I've seen Gagne before; he's very skilled so you have to prepare for anything. Kopitar beat me a few years ago, so I try to be patient and outwait them and have them make the first move."
Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise scored on New Jersey's two attempts in the shootout against Jonathan Quick, who was 10-0 in the tiebreaker last season.
"You always have a few different moves that you like to go to and I felt like that move (high backhand into top right corner) was the best against (Jonathan Quick) … so I went with that one," Parise said. "I felt that was my best option."
Parise felt the Devils were sluggish at the outset, but began to pick up their game right after Brodeur suffered his injury.
"We were sloppy to start but when Marty took that timeout, we settled down and stopped turning the puck over in the neutral zone," Parise said.
Brodeur suffered what the team termed "upper body soreness" following a shot from right point by defenseman Alec Martinez at 12:03 of the first. He finished with 10 saves in the opening 20 minutes before giving way to Hedberg with the score tied 1-1.
"I kind of tweaked my shoulder when I dove down for that shot and I lost strength in it, so didn't feel comfortable continuing," Brodeur said. "I tried to stay in but during the breaks, it started to swell a bit in the shoulder. I should be fine for Saturday (against Nashville). I just need a couple of days to rest and get swelling down. It's OK … I've tweaked it before but this was a little tougher."
Brodeur missed 76 games during the two previous seasons with injuries -- 50 games in 2008-09 with a torn biceps tendon and 26 last season with a bruised elbow and MCL sprain. Hedberg proved to be a more-than-capable backup when Brodeur was sidelined last season, going 15-12-2 with a 2.38 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.
"I waited for a few minutes until I got the nod during intermission, but in the back of my mind I was pretty sure I was going to go in," Hedberg said. "Marty played so well in the first and made some unbelievable saves to keep us in it. When we got back to our system and stopped turning pucks over as much, it made my job easier."
Said Brodeur: "(The injury) wasn't on my mind too much until I came in the room (after the first) and tried to take my equipment off -- that was kind of tricky. Those new shoulder pads were tough to get off. Then went to see the doctors and tested it. The weight of the stick was tough to move around, but it'll be fine."
The Devils (2-1-0) will play five of their next six games on the road.
"It's important to get those efforts (by Hedberg)," Brodeur said. "You need a performance like that to start the season on a good note. It's unfortunate for me, but great for (Hedberg) to get in there and backstop the team to another win."
The Devils barely missed snapping a 1-1 tie with 7:05 left in the third when rookie Adam Larsson sprung Kovalchuk down right wing. Kovalchuk gained possession of the pass between his legs and carried into the Kings zone before unleashing a slap shot from the top of the right circle that Quick (36 saves) steered into the left-wing corner.
The home team had another great chance with 1:44 left in regulation when Parise, who was buzzing in the Kings' zone all game, fed Patrik Elias at the left post. Elias took a few jabs before Dustin Penner was whistled to the box for charging Parise in the slot. The Devils were unable to convert on the ensuing power-play opportunity, including the initial 16 seconds of a 4-on-3 to start overtime.
"So long as we create, that's fine," Elias said. "It's not going to go in every night. I thought I had about six rebounds there but it didn't go in. As long as you create, that's all good. We'll get better. I think the last couple of games we've enjoyed it. We just need to stay with it and the pucks will start going in."
The teams exchanged goals in the opening period. Gagne gave the Kings a 1-0 lead just 1:47 after the opening faceoff when he controlled a feed from Justin Williams in the slot before neatly backhanding a shot past Brodeur for his first of the season.
The Kings had several opportunities to add to the lead but couldn't beat Brodeur. With less than eight minutes remaining in the period, Martinez's wrist shot from the point was stopped by Brodeur with an incredible diving blocker save. Brodeur immediately began favoring his right arm and shoulder area following the denial but he remained in the game -- he skated to the Devils bench to get checked before returning to the crease to chants of "Marty."
Brodeur's effort paid off a minute later when Elias took a feed from Petr Sykora in the slot and backhanded a shot over fallen Quick to even the score at 1-1. Hedberg then replaced Brodeur to begin the second period.
Quick kept the game even when he did the splits to make a right pad save off a backhand attempt by David Clarkson off a breakaway with 2:31 remaining in the second and the Devils on their first power play of the game.
Larsson, who logged a team-high 24:35 of ice time in a victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, was on the ice for 24:59 against the Kings. Coach Peter DeBoer even had the Swedish rookie out on the ice in the final minute of OT.
"I felt good the whole game … I'm an offensive guy so hopefully I can help the team create some chances," Larsson said. "We had good chances in OT, so it was good to contribute."
Said DeBoer: "Lars was fantastic tonight."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale