Adam Larsson said he planned on thanking Johan Hedberg after the Devils 1-0 win over the Islanders Friday.
He may not be alone.
Hedberg bailed out the rookie defenseman, who committed a glaring turnover early in the third, with a terrific stop against Islanders' Michael Grabner on a breakaway and blanked him again on a penalty shot later in the period to help the Devils secure their second straight win.
The 38-year-old backup goaltender was outstanding in making 23 saves to record his 19th career shutout, second this season.
"He was great," coach Pete DeBoer said. "That's what we need. He's a consummate pro. He sits and waits for his turn and pitches a game like that. That's exactly what we need."
Hedberg and the Devils league-leading penalty-killing unit (4-for-4 Friday) handed the Islanders their sixth shutout loss of the season. The lowly Islanders have now dropped 14 of their last 16 games and their past four straight, three of which have been shutouts.
In his 11th start of the season, Hedberg delivered two clutch saves on the speedy Grabner in the third period. When Larsson turned the puck over in the neutral zone 20 seconds into play -- a gaffe that left him benched for most of the period -- Hedberg came out hard to challenge Grabner and stuffed him with an aggressive poke-check.
"I saw him last year -- he had a quite a few breakaways -- and he's an extremely fast guy. I've seen him shoot the puck, I've seen him deke a couple times. I just wanted to surprise him there," Hedberg said.
When he faced Grabner all alone on a penalty shot at 12:50 in the third -- Grabner was brought down on a breakaway by Ilya Kovalchuk -- he thought about sticking with that strategy.
But instead he hung back and blanked Grabner's backhanded attempt to preserve the lead and stymie the Islanders comeback effort.
"I was thinking about doing the same thing on the penalty shot, but I didn't know if he picked up on what I did the first time. So I tried to stay patient," Hedberg said.
Hedberg gave credit to a stingy penalty-killing effort that began with three successful kills in the first period and thwarted a fourth Islanders power-play opportunity in the third. The Devils have not surrendered a power-play goal in four straight games.
"Great job. great penalty killing," Hedberg said. "Even though they had three [power-play opportunities in the first], I don't think they had any scoring chances."
The special teams unit, which is now 79-for-84 on the season has been a strength for the Devils this year
"I think our PK has done a great job," captain Zach Parise said. "Tonight in particular -- they were almost trying to dump the puck out of their own zone we had so much pressure on them. We were definitely able to gain some momentum. A few too many [penalties] tonight, but we did a good job again."