Never underestimate the ability to pick up two points when you're not firing on all cylinders in a shortened season.
The New Jersey Devils didn't win the Stanley Cup at Nassau Coliseum Saturday night, but picking up two points on the road in a game when everyone is still getting the rust off their skates is a positive step. The truncated 2013 season provides a maximum 96 points and to repeat a phrase that will be used often this season, it's going to get late early, so grabbing points whenever possible is vital.
In the opener Marty Brodeur made 18 saves to earn the win and Travis Zajac and David Clarkson scored the goals in 2-1 win over the Islanders, who played without coach Jack Capuano, who was hospitalized before the game with an undisclosed illness. Assistant coach Doug Weight ran the Islanders bench.
“I thought we had a good camp,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer told reporters after the game. “(That) probably allowed us to get two points tonight.”
Travis Hamonic scored the Islanders' lone goal on the power play at 7:12 of the third.
Zajac's second-period goal came when the Islanders got caught on a bad change and Ilya Kovalchuk made a terrific pass to the center.
“Big play,” DeBoer said of Kovalchuk’s pass. “Your best players have to be your best players.”
Patrik Elias got kudos for setting up Clarkson's winning in the third period.
“Patty (Elias) made a great play,” Clarkson said. “When you (work hard, you get) rewarded.”
Salvador proud – Defenseman Bryce Salvador was charged up for his first game as New Jersey's captain.
“I was a little excited,” he told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “I took a penalty right off the bat. I don’t know who I cross-checked. I almost killed the kid, but after the penalty I calmed down a bit. It was a great feeling and it was great that the team played well and got the win.”
Salvador joked that it felt odd to have the "C" on his jersey.
“Every now and then I was thinking, ‘Is my nose bleeding? Is that blood over there?’” Salvador said. “It’s a good feeling and it’s nice the team played well and got a win tonight.”
Matteau impresses — Rookie forward Stefan Matteau had three shots and a hit in 7:26 minutes of ice time in his NHL debut. He played on a fourth line with Jacob Josefson and Cam Janssen.
“I thought he did a great job,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “First NHL game, I felt comfortable putting him on the ice. He gave us some good minutes. He banged some people. He got some pucks to the net. He was good.”
The Devils' first-round pick in 2012 admitted he was nervous.
“Warm-ups was pretty special,” Matteau told Gulitti. “There were a lot of people here. I was very nervous, but as the game went on it went better and better.
“I was skating well,” he said. “I finished my checks, got a few shots and things were going well.”
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