NEWARK, N.J. -- If the Anaheim Ducks play the last two games of their four-game road trip the way they did Saturday in New Jersey, they'll have a chance to go into the NHL's Christmas break feeling good and potentially even in a Stanley Cup Playoff position.
The Ducks scored twice in the first period on goals by Chris Stewart and Ryan Kesler after scoring one goal in their previous seven periods and Frederik Andersen made 21 saves to help Anaheim in a 2-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.
Andersen hadn't started since Nov. 21, when he allowed five goals on 24 shots in a 5-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He initially went out of the lineup with the flu, but the Ducks recalled John Gibson from the American Hockey League, who played well.
"I was really happy with the way we played," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "I thought throughout the whole game we didn't give them a whole lot. Our goalie had to make some saves, but that's his job, too. We gave one up late, but didn't let it rattle us. We stayed our course, battled until the end and get it done."
The Ducks (12-14-5) still have to play at the New York Islanders on Monday and at the New York Rangers on Tuesday before the break. For a team that is still last in the Pacific Division with 29 points largely because their offense has been so dry this season, Getzlaf said there's no hiding how important the next two games are to the Ducks.
"In the position we're in, they're all pretty big," Getzlaf said. "Anything we can do to come out of this trip over .500 and playing good hockey is where we want to be."
New Jersey (16-13-4) got a goal off a one-timer from forward Mike Cammalleri at 15:26 of the third period, but couldn't get the equalizer. Goalie Keith Kinkaid made 16 saves in his first start since Dec. 3.
The Devils have lost two games in a row in regulation and three of their past four. Scoring and shot quantity have been two major issues of late.
New Jersey has four goals in its past four games and 59 shots on goal in its past three. The Devils had 22 shots against Anaheim after getting only 16 in a 5-1 loss against the Florida Panthers on Thursday. They had 21 shots in a 2-0 win against the Sabres on Tuesday.
"Our execution on offense needs to be better," Devils coach John Hynes said. "Our passing, our receiving, those things need to be better when we're on the attack, coming out of our zone."
Hynes, though, wouldn't label the Devils current situation as a slump.
"We believe in what we're doing and we just continue to go through the process," Hynes said. "Every team has to go a process of adversity. How you deal with that and come out of that, if you do it the right way, it makes you a stronger team."
The Ducks have dealt with their share of adversity this season, most of it stemming from their scoring problems. They have scored one goal or fewer in 15 of 31 games.
However, Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said he could sense a different attitude coming from his team prior to the game.
"I thought our guys really sounded ready and I had a good feeling they were going to come out in the first period and be pretty solid," Boudreau said.
They were. It helped that they caught two big breaks.
Stewart scored at 7:39 when his centering pass from behind the goal line went into the net off of Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas.
Boudreau initially called it a "fluky" goal, but later said he regretted his word choice because the goal came at the end of a 42-second shift in the offensive zone that started with Stewart missing a shot off the rush from the right circle.
"A little bit of justice there," Stewart said. "We were in their end for a good 30-40 seconds just cycling, taking it to the net. We stuck with it and it just goes to show you when you play with the right intention the hockey gods can bless you with a goal."
A mistake on a breakout by Devils defenseman Adam Larsson led to Kesler's fourth goal of the season that gave Anaheim a 2-0 lead with 15.2 seconds remaining in the first period.
Instead of finding a teammate with a pass or skating the puck up the ice himself, Larsson attempted a hard rim around the defensive zone boards without any support from a forward. Instead, Ducks forward Corey Perry intercepted the puck at the right-wing half-wall and got it in front to Kesler, who settled the puck on his stick, turned, and used his forehand to beat Kinkaid.
"There are different options when you go into a set breakout situation and unfortunately in that situation we made the wrong decision and it wound up in the back of our net," Hynes said. "Those things happen in the game and tonight that was probably the difference maker in the game right there."