(Sports Network) – Clayton Stoner’s first career goal was a complete fluke but it lifted the Minnesota Wild to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.
Stoner’s dump-in during the early stages of the third period took a directional carom off the boards and eventually slid across the goal line for the Wild, who have started the new year with a pair of wins following Sunday’s overtime victory versus Phoenix.
“We played smart and we didn’t give up too many chances,” said Stoner. “It paid off for us in the win column tonight.”
Cal Clutterbuck also scored, while Jose Theodore made 21 saves in the win.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored the only goal for New Jersey, which is marred in a massive slump and lost for the eighth time in its last nine games overall. Since the start of December, the Devils are 2-13-0.
Johan Hedberg allowed two goals on 18 shots in the loss.
Seventy-four seconds into the final frame, a fluke goal sealed New Jersey’s fate. Stoner, from the right side of the neutral zone near mid-ice, fired a routine dump-in off the near glass.
Hedberg skated behind the New Jersey net with the intent to stop the puck for his defenseman, but was helpless to stop the disc when it took an awkward carom off the glass and bounced directly into the net in a play that seemed to mirror the Devils’ troubled 2010-11 season.
“We were obviously fortunate with the bounce on the winning goal, but I still like the way we played,” said Wild head coach Todd Richard. “We played hard and I thought we did a good job defensively.”
The Devils did not muster much offense throughout the remainder of regulation.
Minnesota opened the scoring at 11:38 of the first period. Kovalchuk had the puck and was headed through the neutral zone on a breakout, but his skate got caught in a divot in the ice and it caused him to commit a turnover.
From the right half-wall, Clutterbuck corralled the puck, moved past Devils blueliner Anssi Salmela on a partial breakaway through the near circle and lit the lamp with a laser wrist shot.
At the 3:07 mark of the second stanza, Kovalchuk atoned for the error when his 10th goal of the season knotted the contest. Strong forechecking by the hosts led to puck control by Travis Zajac along the rear boards. Zajac then passed to Kovalchuk, who released a blistering wrister from inside the left circle that flew behind Theodore with help from a screen in front by Nick Palmieri.
“We battled back in the second period, but we didn’t have enough in the end,” said Zajac.
New Jersey failed on its three power-play chances, while the Wild did not gain a man-advantage opportunity in the contest…Zajac has 15 assists…Theodore stopped 13 shots in the second period…It was Clutterbuck’s 11th goal…This marked only the second time in Wild franchise history that the club defeated New Jersey in the 11 all-time meetings between the clubs. The other occurred on March 3, 2000 in Minnesota…The Wild improved to 9-6-3 as the guest.