Johan Hedberg blanks Stars as Devils win season-best 8th straight

DALLAS -- A tight-checking game turned on a single break, and rookie Nick Palmieri capitalized for the streaking New Jersey Devils.

Palmieri scored on a deflection with 5:37 left and Johan Hedberg stopped 19 shots for his 17th NHL shutout as the Devils extended their season-high winning streak to eight with a 1-0 victory over the slumping Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.

With newly acquired Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski in the penalty box for high-sticking, Ilya Kovalchuk broke his stick on a shot from the left point. But Palmieri was set up to the right of the net and he deflected the puck past Kari Lehtonen for his sixth goal.

"I was in front of the net trying to set a screen," Palmieri said. "Usually that shot coming from the point is a little harder than that, but a broken stick might have thrown their goalie off a little bit and I just happened to get a little tip on it. There weren't a lot of chances on either side, so we'll take the goal any way we can get it.

"There's a strong belief in this locker room we can compete with any team in the league and we've been doing that in the last little while."

It was the kind of defensive game that is the trademark of Devils coach Jacques Lemaire, who has been behind the bench during the surge after taking over for the fired John MacLean on Dec. 23.

"That's exactly the kind of game you expect -- tight-checking. They don't give you much," Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas said.

The Devils are 16-1-2 in their last 19 to move closer to playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.

"It's the whole group that plays hard and bears down on the little things that makes this team better," Lemaire said. "They have intensity. Everyone is on the same page, it's a lot easier."

It was Hedberg's second 1-0 victory in three games. He also topped the New York Rangers on Friday night as he fills in for Martin Brodeur as the No. 1 goalie recovers from a knee injury.

Lemaire gave Hedberg his seventh straight start even though Brodeur is ready to play after missing more than two weeks because of a sprained knee ligament. Hedberg has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his last seven starts.

Lehtonen had 22 saves, but the Stars' season-worst losing streak reached five games. Dallas is 2-10-1 in its last 13 games to fall out of first place in the Pacific Division.

Goligoski made his Stars debut after he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, skating on the top pair with Robidas. He had a tough night with two penalties, including the third-period call that set up the only goal.

Stars forward Brian Sutherby had a near-miss with about 2:30 left in the second period, but Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov stopped the puck at the goal line.

Dallas right wing Jamie Langenbrunner played against the Devils for the first time since the former New Jersey captain was traded on Jan. 7. Langenbrunner waived his no-trade clause to rejoin the Stars, the team that drafted him in 1993.

"It was definitely a little weird [playing against the Devils], but we played a pretty good hockey game," Langenbrunner said. "We did a lot of what we wanted to do, but didn't bury our opportunities and then they got a pretty lucky bounce there at the end."

Game notes
The assist gave Kovalchuk an 11-game point streak. ... Forward Jamie Benn was back in the Stars lineup after missing 10 games with a shoulder injury. ... Dallas is still without C Brad Richards (concussion-like symptoms), D Nicklas Grossman (hip), C Adam Burish (broken orbital bone), RW Krys Barch (scratched cornea and fractured orbital bone), and RW Ray Sawada (separated shoulder). ... The Devils had lost four straight in Dallas. New Jersey's previous road victory over the Stars was March 10, 2002. ... New Jersey LW Patrik Elias drew a double minor for high-sticking at 4:25 of the second period, but the Stars generated few scoring chances.