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New Jersey native Palmieri defeats Devils for Ducks

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau was mid-answer during his postgame press conference when he was interrupted by a loud cheer that came from behind the double doors no more than 50 feet away. There was no mistaking what the noise was for, or better yet, who the noise was for.

"His family must be here," Boudreau said, smiling.

Ducks forward Kyle Palmieri, a New Jersey native, had close to 100 friends and family in attendance Friday at Prudential Center and he delivered a performance they and he won't soon forget. Palmieri scored 2:37 into overtime to give the Ducks a 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils. He also had an assist and was a plus-3 in 15:42 of ice time.

The Ducks (25-7-5) have won seven straight games for the second time this season and moved within one point of the Chicago Blackhawks for the top spot in the NHL standings. Anaheim will try to move into first place and set a franchise record for consecutive victories Saturday against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

However, before they could board the bus to Long Island, Palmieri had to spend a few minutes celebrating with the loved ones who came to see his first game at Prudential Center, which is 30 miles from his hometown of Montvale, N.J., and nine miles from where he went to high school, St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City.

Palmieri's high school team was playing in the practice rink attached to Prudential Center prior to the game Friday. He said he noticed it on the bus ride.

"It was a pretty memorable night for me, my family, my friends," Palmieri said. "It was definitely a pretty cool experience for everybody. It didn't have to be storybook in my eyes, but we were lucky enough to get a win and I was able to contribute, so it felt pretty good."

Palmieri hadn't scored since the Ducks played across the Hudson River at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4. Boudreau said when Palmieri gets involved in the play good things happen, and that was true Friday.

He scored the overtime winner on a wraparound that went into the net off Devils defenseman Jon Merrill's stick, and set up Mathieu Perreault for the go-ahead goal with 9:13 remaining in the third period. Palmieri also set the screen on Devils goalie Cory Schneider that allowed Cam Fowler's slap shot from the left circle to tie the game 1-1 with 5:54 left in the second period.

"I was really happy for him," Boudreau said of Palmieri. "It's been a while since he scored, but you could tell early on that he was getting more involved and he was getting shots off and he had a couple of chances. I really thought he might pop one [Friday], especially after he made the play to Perreault for the go-ahead goal. It was good."

It wasn't necessarily bad for the Devils (14-15-7), who had a two-game winning streak snapped but picked up a point before playing the Washington Capitals on Saturday at Verizon Center.

The Devils took a 1-0 lead on Michael Ryder's 10th goal of the season 4:15 into the second period, and Andy Greene scored a game-tying power-play goal with 5:02 remaining in the third. Schneider made 21 saves, but the Devils couldn't capitalize early in the game when they appeared to have the better of play with the Ducks admittedly lethargic.

Ryder and Adam Henrique had shots go off of the post, and Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller made eight of his 19 saves.

"That's one of the top two or three hockey teams in the NHL," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I thought the difference was probably the first period. We hit a couple posts. If we could get a couple there, have a little bit of cushion, you know they were going to push back in the second and third. You could see their size and strength and depth. I thought we did a good job finding a way to get the game into overtime. We needed to cash in in the first to put them in the tough hole."

The bad news for the Devils may be yet to come. Forward Damien Brunner left the game with 2:52 to play in the first period with an apparent knee injury the team would only clarify as a lower-body injury.

Ducks defenseman Mark Fistric went to check Brunner in the corner, but their knees collided and Brunner went down in pain. He couldn't get up on his own and did not put any weight on his right leg as he was helped off the ice by teammates Greene and Dainius Zubrus.

DeBoer said Brunner was being evaluated late Friday and the Devils would know more after that. Brunner scored in the previous two games and had four goals in the past four games.

"Tough break," DeBoer said. "You feel for him because he was really starting to play well and get his legs, get his confidence. It's a tough break for him and for us."

The Devils have forwards who were healthy scratches Friday (Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby and Cam Janssen) who could replace Brunner in the lineup Saturday, but forward Ryane Clowe, who missed his 30th straight game with a concussion, is close to returning and will be traveling with the team to D.C.

Clowe said Friday morning he didn't think he'd play Saturday. Brunner's injury might change that.

"Those are all hypotheticals," DeBoer said. "I want to see where [Brunner] is at first and then we'll make those decisions."

The Ducks don't have to worry about such decisions because they got out of the game healthy and with a rejuvenated and revamped second line that might have something going.

Palmieri and Perreault each had a goal and an assist, and Teemu Selanne had two assists, giving him points in three straight games after he went the previous 16 without one.

"What makes this team special is the depth in here," Selanne said. "It's a good sign. Obviously a lot of hard work ahead, but I think we have all the pieces."

One of those pieces had a homecoming he'll never forget.

"It was a pretty cool night," Palmieri said.


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