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Devils defeat Jets, end 18-shootout losing streak

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Jacob Josefson had all the confidence in the world as he carried the puck up ice and gave a head fake before scoring the biggest goal of his career, in a shootout, to give the New Jersey Devils a 2-1 victory against the Winnipeg Jets at Prudential Center on Thursday.

Josefson, who scored the only goal of the shootout, allowed the Devils to snap an NHL record 18-game losing streak in the tiebreaker. The shootout victory was the first for the Devils since March 10, 2013, also against Winnipeg.

"Hopefully it's the start of something good [in the shootout] and we can get a roll going here, but we'd rather win the games before the shootout," Josefson said.

Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he could not have scripted the finish any better.

"It was our first home win of the season, and first shootout win in what feels like 10 years," DeBoer said. "So we got a couple monkeys off our back and can move forward; it was a big two points."

Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, who was making his 10th straight start, made 24 saves. He stopped Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd before forcing Bryan Little wide in the shootout.

"I thought Cory was outstanding; if he doesn't play as well as he does we don't get anything," DeBoer said. "I thought after first goal, he was the difference for us to hang around. We had to open it up to push for a goal and he was there when we needed him to be."

In the tiebreaker, Devils forward Damien Brunner hit the post with the first attempt before Schneider stopped Wheeler on a poke check. Josefson, who is in his fifth season, then skated down the middle of the ice, made a head fake on goalie Ondrej Pavelec to force him to commit to the right post, and ripped a forehand into the top left corner.

DeBoer said Patrik Elias had been in his ear about giving Josefson an opportunity in the shootout.

"[Josefson] has been really good in practice and [Elias] keeps bringing up his name whenever we're talking about the shootout because he's got a knack for scoring in practice," DeBoer said. "This year (assistant coach) Mike Foligno has taken the lead role in [the shootout] so he was throwing names by me. Patrik also jumped in and threw [Jacob's] name in there. It was an easy pick, and with a lot of pressure on, he made a great play."

Josefson, now 2-for-4 in shootouts in his NHL career, felt confident with the puck on his stick.

"I've been working on them in practice and have a few moves I'm comfortable with," he said. "[Pavelec] bit on the move there and I was able to put it in. I wanted to do exactly what I did; I had a move in my head so I just tried to do it as good as possible.

"It was a classic head fake; fake the shot and go to the side and try to put it up and in."

The Devils, who failed to sustain consistent pressure in the Jets zone all game, received some life late in the third period when Michael Ryder scored off a feed from Jon Merrill off a turnover.

"I really felt that if we could tie it up we could get two points," DeBoer said. "They weren't giving us much and we couldn't create with [Mike] Cammalleri and [Martin] Havlat out (because of injury). Once Ryder got that one, I felt very comfortable we would get the two [points]."

The equalizer was made possible by Merrill, who collected the puck along the left-wing half boards and fed Ryder down the middle. Ryder skated past Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba in the left circle and launched a shot into the top right corner past Pavelec with 3:27 remaining.

"The main thing is we bounced back from the Pittsburgh loss (8-3 on Tuesday) and Schneider made the saves we needed and then we got the shootout monkey off the back," Ryder said. "I just tried to go around [Trouba] and his stick came in and I was trying to get a better angle at the net, get it upstairs, and it managed to go in."

The Devils outshot the Jets, 7-4, in the third period. Pavelec, who finished with 27 saves, was trying for his first shutout since Nov. 8, 2013.

"It's huge coming home and getting the win, especially after our loss to Pittsburgh," Ryder said. "Good teams forget about losses like that and bounce back, and we came in [Thursday] and got the two points. It was a huge victory."

Wheeler gave the Jets a 1-0 lead 6:56 into the first period when he took advantage of a delayed penalty call. Defenseman Toby Enstrom delivered a long pass off his backhand from his blue line to Wheeler just over the red line to begin the charge up ice. Wheeler took the puck in stride down left wing, beat defenseman Marek Zidlicky, and drove to the net before cutting in front of Schneider and snapping a shot inside the right post.

"There was very little flow or transition to the game, which is good for the road team but also that's the way New Jersey plays," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "So I thought at 1-0 we had a few chances to make it 2-0 and didn't do that."

Forward Evander Kane returned to the lineup for the Jets. He missed the past eight games after sustaining a knee injury in the first period of the season opener against the Arizona Coyotes after colliding with linemate Mark Scheifele. Kane resumed his role on as the top-line left wing alongside center Scheifele and Wheeler.

The Devils (5-3-2), who won for the first time at Prudential Center this season (1-1-2), play the Columbus Blue Jackets here Saturday.

"We just stuck to it," Merrill said. "It was a frustrating game at times when both teams tightened up defensively. We stuck to our systems and believed in ourselves and got the [win]. We all did our jobs when our number was called."

The Jets (4-5-1), who had their two-game win streak snapped, play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday before closing their four-game road trip against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Sunday.

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