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Devils blank Kings 3-0

by Curtis Zupke
LOS ANGELES -- The New Jersey Devils probably wouldn't have been the first team that comes to mind as a candidate to end a remarkable defensive run by the Los Angeles Kings. The Devils entered Tuesday averaging 1.83 goals a game, and their methodical style doesn't produce a bounty of scoring chances.

But New Jersey showed a slick transition game and the line of Dainius Zubrus, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora produced three goals in a span of 5:14 in the second period for a 3-0 victory on Tuesday night at Staples Center, ending a two-game losing streak.

Johan Hedberg made 31 saves for his 18th career shutout and stole the spotlight from fellow backup Jonathan Bernier

But the story was New Jersey's offense against a previously impenetrable Kings defense, which had not allowed a goal in more than three games and saw its even-strength shutout streak end at 221 minutes, 22 seconds.

"We believe that this is one of the better teams," Zubrus said. "There's a lot of good players on this team. The first game of the road trip, to win the way we did, it's a confidence boost."

Zubrus scored his first two goals of the season and ended the Kings' shutout streak. Sykora, who was ill for most of the day and missed the morning skate, contributed two assists.

"Heart and soul," Elias said of Sykora. "I had to actually take care of him. I think he just wanted the morning skate off."

In all seriousness, Elias liked the sharp start to the game and a three-game Western road trip.

"We were worrying about our start," he said. "We played the last couple of games well at certain times but not well for 60 minutes. We just wanted to do it for a whole game."

A flawless passing sequence led a 2-0 lead. Elias helped maneuver the puck in the Kings' zone and drifted open to one-time Sykora's cross-ice pass from the right side at 15:31.

"It was just a beautiful play," said Elias, who stayed kneeled on the ice to savor the goal. "I got a little excited on the celebration."

Most of the attention entering the game involved Bernier, who Kings coach Terry Murray started in place of Jonathan Quick -- even though Quick is riding a franchise-record three-game scoreless streak, the first such run in the NHL since Steve Mason of Columbus in 2008-09.

Bernier made 20 saves in his second start of the season and first in 17 days. He couldn't be faulted much except perhaps for Zubrus' third goal, a slap shot from the left circle.

But Murray said the game "had nothing to do with goaltending" and he wasn't concerned about Bernier off to an 0-2 start.

"I'm not worried about his confidence," Murray said. "He's a pretty gifted guy. There's no need to manage his mental part of the game. As a young goaltender, you're always on top of and watching closely how his mechanics are and how aggressive he is. Over the course of time, with his confidence he's always shown me the confidence to deal with what's going on."

Bernier saw little work prior to the Devils' quick burst. He faced one shot in the first 12 minutes of the second period.

Andy Greene took a shot from the left point and Zubrus slipped underneath Dustin Penner to get a swipe at the puck, which floated in as Zubrus' momentum carried him into Bernier. The puck went into the net and the play was reviewed and upheld for a 1-0 lead.

"I think I was able to get a shot initially and I just kept going to the net," Zubrus said, "and I'm not sure what happened then because I fell, and the puck was in front of me in the net."

The Devils made it 3-0 at 18:12 when Justin Williams lost Matt Greene's pass. Sykora got the puck to Zubrus at the top of the left circle, and Zubrus blasted a shot past Bernier's blocker to cap the three-goal second period.

"Next thing we knew, it was 2-0, 3-0," Bernier said. "In this league, it's pretty hard when you don't score that first goal or come back, especially against that type of team."

Los Angeles had 15 giveaways and wasn't nearly crisp enough to extend a four-game winning streak.

"I think what we need to avoid is a night like tonight where we aren't really playing at our optimal level," captain Dustin Brown said. "We have to have our compete there and tonight it wasn't there the whole game."

Hedberg made a terrific right leg pad stop on Anze Kopitar in the third period to preserve the shutout and thwarted Kopitar and Williams early in the second period.

"Even the last couple games that we lost, it wasn't our best efforts," Zubrus said. "But he was our best player. He's been really good for us. With (Martin Brodeur) down a little bit (with a shoulder injury) … it helps a lot and keeps the confidence in us."
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