NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Minnesota Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner was skating off the ice when the puck took a lucky bounce and found its way in for his first NHL goal.
That was enough to beat the lowly New Jersey Devils.
Stoner netted the winning goal, and Jose Theodore made 21 saves in the Wild’s 2-1 win on Tuesday night.
Stoner scored 1:14 into the third period to snap a 1-1 tie. He fired the puck along the right boards into the Devils end. New Jersey goalie Johan Hedberg skated behind the net, anticipating the puck would wind all the way around, but it never reached him. The puck caromed off the boards and angled into the open net before Hedberg could dive back into position.
“I was thinking about burning the tape and telling everyone a different story a few years from now,” Stoner said. “Sometimes you need that lucky goal to win a hockey game.”
It a started out as a simple play, a basic dump-in.
“I was just trying to get a rim around, and (get) off for a change,” Stoner said. “I dumped it and turned my back. I was headed for bench and then I heard the team celebrate. I had a feeling it was mine because there was no way someone could have gotten to the puck.”
And there was no way Hedberg could recover.
“I’ve got to be more selective,” the Devils goalie said. “It happens now and then. For me, I want to be part of the play around my net. It’s an instinct to go after it. That bounce I haven’t seen before. When things aren’t going your way things just seem to pile up.”
Nothing is going right for the Devils, losers of 13 of 15.
Hedberg got the start over Martin Brodeur, who was yanked Saturday after giving up three goals on seven shots in a 6-3 loss to Carolina.
Cal Clutterbuck also scored for Wild, who won for the third time in four games. It was Minnesota’s first win in New Jersey after four loses and a tie.
It was an important victory, given the close race for playoff spots in the Western Conference. It was also an important test, following Minnesota’s emotional 6-5 win over Phoenix on Sunday.
“I wasn’t sure what we were going to get tonight coming off of that,” Wild coach Todd Richards said. “You look at our past, coming off big wins, we haven’t responded. I really liked the way we played in the first period. We were ready to go and we had some good energy. It was one of those games where we bent a little bit but didn’t break and found a way to win the game.”
The Wild dominated the first period and took a 1-0 lead when Clutterbuck scored an unassisted goal at 11:48.
Clutterbuck seized the opportunity when Ilya Kovalchuk turned over the puck as he spun and fell in the neutral zone. Clutterbuck swooped in on Hedberg from the right wing, picking the short side.
Minnesota outshot listless New Jersey 8-1 in the period. The Devils’ lone shot came about 12 minutes in when Jamie Langenbrunner tested Theodore with a drive from the right circle.
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire could barely contain his anger over his team’s poor start.
“What start? I didn’t see any,” Lemaire said. “I’m just (mad). I’ll try not to talk too much.”
In the second, Kovalchuk atoned for his turnover by scoring at 3:07. Kovalchuk flicked in a shot from the left circle as Nick Palmieri screened Theodore.
That goal gave a badly needed spark to the Devils, who outshot the Wild 14-4 in the period.
NOTES: D Mark Fraser returned for the Devils after missing 34 games with a broken hand in an early-season fight. With Fraser activated from the injured list, D Mark Fayne was demoted to Albany of the AHL. … LW Brian Rolston was back in the Devils lineup after he missed three games while clearing re-entry waivers. … The Wild scratches were RW Jed Ortmeyer, D Marco Scandella and RW Anti Miettinen. … The Devils scratched C Dainius Zubrus, RW Mattias Tedenby and D Matt Corrente. … The Devils are 1-5 since Lemaire, who formerly coached the Wild, replaced John MacLean for his third stint with New Jersey.
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