UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The real New Jersey Devils – the ones with the tight checking, smothering defense and excellent goaltending – showed up Sunday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
After surrendering five goals in back-to-back losses to the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, the Devils shut down New York in the rematch. Johan Hedberg stopped all 22 shots he faced and Steve Bernier broke a scoreless tie with 3:54 remaining as the Devils beat the Islanders 3-0.
The Devils struggled to kill penalties in Thursday's 5-4 overtime loss to the Islanders and were beaten soundly in a 5-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday. Coach Peter DeBoer was happy to see his team play more like itself.
"It starts with the goaltender, he was outstanding," DeBoer said. "The penalty-killing was great. It was a tough game, back-to-back, but we stuck with it."
The game was scoreless when Islanders defenseman Brian Strait was called for charging with 5:43 left in regulation. The Isles, the NHL's top penalty-killing team, allowed only their second man-advantage goal of the season when Bernier picked up a deflected shot to the right of Evgeni Nabokov and rifled the puck into the net with 3:54 to play.
"I think we've been trying a little too much on the power play to do the perfect play," he said. "Sometimes it's going to work, but when you shoot the puck -- it was a lucky goal. We can say that. It bounced off one stick and came to mine."
Bernier, who came into the game with one goal this season, made it 2-0 just 70 seconds later when he poked the puck into the net off Nabokov. David Clarkson added an empty-netter.
The biggest change from Thursday night's game was the Devils' success on the penalty kill. The Islanders were 3-for-4 and got the overtime winner with the extra man in Newark; on Sunday, the Devils killed all seven Islanders power plays, allowing only five shots.
"Even at home the other day, we were fine 5-on-5," DeBoer said. "They ate us alive with their power play. We fixed that today."
Said Hedberg: "We really wanted this one bad, and I think it showed, especially on the penalty kill."
Hedberg made his biggest stop of the game early in the third period when Islanders forward Michael Grabner stole the puck at his own blue line and raced in for a shorthanded breakaway. Grabner deked and went to his forehand, but Hedberg got his pad down to make the save.
"I just tried to come out and tried to match his speed as good as possible," he said. "He's one of the quickest players in the world. I hadn't seen him use that move before."
DeBoer felt that stop was the turning point.
"The one on Grabner was probably the game right there," he said.
Hedberg has allowed just one goal on 50 shots in his two starts this season while backing up Martin Brodeur.
"I've been feeling pretty good, and the guys have been playing great in front of men," he said. But when asked if he expected more playing time, especially with the tight schedule, he simply said, "I don't expect anything. Whenever they need me, I'll be ready."
Islanders coach Jack Capuano wasn't at all happy with his team, which was returning home after going 3-1-1 on a five-game trip.
"We got in the zone the way we wanted but after that, we had no movement, no energy, we weren't winning puck battles," Capuano said. "We just weren't functioning properly. They were winning all the puck battles. Nabokov kept us in the game, especially in the second period when they came at us hard. Nabby gave us a chance to win the game."
But Capuano felt his team didn't have the same kind of effort it did on the road trip.
"You're not going to generate any offense if you don't go to those hot areas," he said. "We stayed on the perimeter way too much."