|Ryan Carter scored his first two NHL goals against Martin Brodeur, a feat made all the bigger as the tallies gave the Ducks a 2-1 win over the Devils.
The Anaheim Ducks
’ season appeared to be at a crossroads.
The defending Stanley Cup champions embarked on a season-long nine-game road trip by dropping the first four, extending their losing streak to six straight. Not only were the Ducks falling from among the top teams in the Western Conference, the ones still below them were gaining ground fast.
Then came the return of Teemu Selanne and three games against teams from New York and New Jersey. Anaheim hasn’t lost since.
Ryan Carter netted a pair of first-period goals – the first two of his National Hockey League career – and backup Jonas Hiller made 34 saves as the Ducks edged the New Jersey Devils 2-1 Friday at Prudential Center, completing a sweep of the Metro-area teams following victories over the Islanders on Tuesday and the Rangers on Thursday.
"We played defensively pretty good. I know they didn't have too many second opportunities," said Hiller, 5-4-1 in 15 games. "I had to stop the first shot and it worked out pretty well."
Scott Niedermayer played his first game in New Jersey since leaving the Devils as a free agent three summers ago. The smooth-skating defenseman, who played 13 seasons and won three Stanley Cups with the Devils, picked up an assist on Carter’s first goal and was plus-two in 26:37 of ice time.
"It wasn't another game," Niedermayer said. "I didn't sleep that well. Usually I'm able to nap pretty easily, and I didn't. I was excited. It was a special night for sure."
It was also Anaheim’s first trip to New Jersey since Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. The Ducks were probably happy to head in a different direction than the Meadowlands, where they were a lifetime 1-10-1, including four losses in as many tries in that championship series. They had previously won in New Jersey on Feb. 11, 1996.
Jay Pandolfo scored the lone goal for the Devils, who have a glut of home games this month but have won just three of the past nine in their new arena. Once again, a slow start was the main culprit.
“It seems that we need a wake-up call all the time,” said goalie Martin Brodeur, who stopped 22 shots. “I don’t know if we’re not ready to go or whatever, but we always need to get down a few goals to get our game going.”
Carter, who broke into the League last spring by appearing in four playoff games for the Ducks on their march to the Cup, had four assists in 27 games this season before he beat Brodeur twice in a 7:41 span.
Midway through the first period, Niedermayer controlled the puck behind the Anaheim net and sent a breakout pass to defense partner Francois Beauchemin, who got the puck to Carter cruising down the right wing. Using Devils defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski as a screen, Carter drove a shot past Brodeur at 10:12 for his first NHL goal.
"He's one of the best goalies, maybe one of the best ever, but all the goalies in this league are good nowadays," Carter said. "When you get the first one the flood gates open and maybe that's the case here."
The Devils were victimized by a bad bounce that led to Carter’s second of the night. Pandolfo’s attempted outlet pass hit one of the linesmen and the puck was taken instead by Chris Kunitz. The Ducks broke back into the Devils’ zone and Carter took a pass from Corey Perry and scored at 17:53 for a 2-0 lead.
“We’re a better team than how we played in the first period, and we proved it in the second and third,” Sutter said.
Pandolfo, playing in his third game after missing 28 straight with a groin injury, got the Devils closer with 4:24 remaining in the second. One of the team’s leading scorers before he got hurt, Pandolfo was able to tip a Vishnevski drive from the top of the left circle past Hiller for his ninth of the season.
Hiller held the Devils off the scoreboard almost single-handedly in the third period, making 19 saves. One of his best came when Patrik Elias broke in alone with around five minutes remaining. Hiller also stood tall in the final half minute after Carter sent the puck over the glass and was penalized for delay of game.
"I sweated a little more in the last 45 seconds in the penalty box than I think I had the whole game," Carter said.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.