So it was pretty significant for the two former Devils, now the head coach and assistant coach of the Carolina Hurricanes respectively, to not only emerge from a visit to Prudential Center with a 4-2 victory Tuesday night, but to also earn the respect of the New Jersey franchise for the way they went about securing the victory.
"Any time you can come here and win, it's a huge character test," Muller told reporters after halting New Jersey's five game winning streak."It may not be pretty, but we're coming together as a team and the chemistry is building every game."
Playing for the second time in successive nights, in many respects, the Hurricanes beat the Devils at their own game, thus ending a six game road trip with a very solid 4-1-1 record.
“Through our streak we had won the special teams battle almost every night, either with a power-play goal, or we had shut the other team out with our penalty kill and tonight we lost those areas of the game and couldn’t recover from that,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said, noting the two power-play goals off the stick of Jiri Tlusty in the third period that did in the Devils.
Cam Ward also played a major role in the Carolina victory, stopping 26 shots.
"It was a huge trip, the longest trip of the year," Ward told reporters afterward. "We're all excited now to go home, winning two games against two tough opponents back-to-back. This is a tough building to play in. We were fortunate to get the two late goals."
In addition to Tlusty, Jussi Jokinen and Patrick Dwyer also scored against Martin Brodeur.
Ilya Kovalchuk and Ryan Carter scored for the Devils.
"Their energy level at times was pretty amazing, for them playing back to back" Brodeur said. "It's hard to come back and play a team that's not a rival or close to you in the standings. It's a good hockey team over there. We hadn't seen them this year and they showed us a lot."
"Carolina, give them credit, they came out and they were skating and getting the puck in deep," agreed Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador said. "They came out flying."
And grounded the Devils, which has been no small feat of late.
Devilish look to Carolina – The effort put forth by the Hurricanes shouldn't have come as a surprise since the Carolina coaching staff has its roots in New Jersey with Muller and MacLean, two former first-round picks who helped establish the Devils as a winning franchise. Also on the coaching staff is former Devil Dave Lewis, a veteran who helped establish a solid work ethic in New Jersey during the early days.
“Johnny and I always talked about working together, so it was a great opportunity for me,” Muller told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “I’m really a coach who delegates a lot. Being an assistant (with Montreal) and knowing what it’s like to be an assistant, I think a coaching staff has to be like a team and I love my staff.”
Muller replaced Paul Maurice as head coach at the end of November of last season. He added MacLean, who had been fired as head coach of the Devils, a week later. Lewis already was part of Maurice's staff.
“To keep him on here was a no-brainer,” Muller said of Lewis. “What he’s done really well is he’s like Larry Robinson and those guys. They’ve learned how to adapt with defensemen whether they’re young or they’re old and have changed with the game.”
Zubrus out – Left wing Dainius Zubrus sat out for the fourth game in a row with an upper-body injury. … Defenseman Mark Fayne missed the morning skate because of a death in his family, but he played in the game.
Defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Peter Harrold were healthy scratches once again.
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