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Bernier's late goals help end Devils' losing streak

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- In a span of a little more than half an hour Sunday, the New Jersey Devils went from fretting over the possibility of suffering their fifth straight loss to boarding the team bus fresh off a lopsided win that catapulted them into second place in the Atlantic Division.

Welcome to the 48-game NHL season, where the path from panic to relief - and vice versa - is a short one.

The Devils scored three goals in the final four minutes Sunday to turn a scoreless tie into a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

Steve Bernier scored the first two goals for the Devils in a 70-second span before David Clarkson added an empty-net goal with 22 seconds left for New Jersey, which snapped a four-game losing streak as it improved to 4-1-3 and moved past the Islanders (4-3-1) in the Atlantic.

Devils goalie Johan Hedberg made 22 saves in the shutout, while Evgeni Nabokov had 24 saves for the Islanders.

"It was important to get back on track and get back on the winning streak," Bernier said. "It's only one game, but I think we came out and played good as a team."

The Devils certainly looked better than they did the night before in Pittsburgh, where they fell to the Penguins 5-1 in their first regulation defeat of the year.

"[Saturday] we [made] way too many mistakes, we were trying things that we don't usually try and it cost us the game," Bernier said. "Tonight we were very patient. Zero-zero in the third, and that was our goal tonight, to play that way and hope for a good turnout at the end of the game."

The Devils were on the offensive for much of the third period, when they outshot the Islanders 13-5, but could not break through until Bernier's 1-2 punch.

Bernier's first goal came off a caromed shot from Andy Greene with 3:54 left. Just 70 seconds later, Bernier once again was in the right place at the right time when Islanders Nabokov deflected Ryan Carter's shot to Bernier, who poked it in from just to the left of the net.

The late flurry of goals ensured the Devils' stout defensive effort would not go for naught. The Islanders controlled the play for most of the first two periods, during which they outshot the Devils 17-14, but they went 0-for-7 on the power play.

That was a marked change from the last time the two teams played on Thursday night, when the Islanders scored three power-play goals in a 5-4 overtime win.

"We tightened up defensively," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "The big difference was the penalty killing. I thought defensively at home the other day, we were fine 5-on-5. They ate us alive with the power plays, so we fixed that."

The Islanders entered Sunday with 27 goals, second-most in the Eastern Conference, but they were stymied again by the Devils, who have surrendered just six goals in three games against the Islanders this season.

The Islanders' best chance to score Sunday came with 12 minutes to play when Michael Grabner picked off Ilya Kovalchuk's clearing pass in the Devils' zone and raced in on Hedberg on the breakaway. But Grabner's shot hit Hedberg's left leg and Hedberg smothered the puck.

"We were in a pretty good hockey game for 55 minutes," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We just couldn't close it out."

NOTES: The Islanders played the second of nine straight games in the tri-state area Sunday. The Islanders visited the Devils Thursday and will play six home games and visit the Rangers twice through Feb. 18. This is the Islanders' longest tri-state area stretch since they went 6-5-1 in a 12-game span from Dec. 12, 2010 through Jan. 2, 2011. ... An announced crowd of 11,558 turned out for the Super Bowl matinee, which was the Islanders' first since they tied the Devils 4-4 on Jan. 28, 1990 (Super Bowl XXIV). The Islanders played on Super Bowl Sunday just twice in the subsequent 21 seasons. The Devils, meanwhile, were playing on Super Bowl Sunday for the third straight year. New Jersey beat the Canadiens and the Penguins the previous two years. ... Capuano was sporting a black and blue left eye from getting hit there in the third period of Thursday's 5-4 overtime win over the Devils.

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