EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—After struggling through the first half of the season, Jeff O’Neill has regained the scoring touch.
“I’m glad you called it a scoring run,” O’Neill said after getting his second game winner in four games. “The first half of the season couldn’t have been worse. The puck is finally going over the goal line.”
O’Neill, who had five goals in his first 44 games, even got a little unlucky in the final seconds. He slid a shot into an empty net just after the final buzzer.
“This shows what happens when we show up and work hard at the start,” O’Neill added. “When we stink out the joint in the first period, it greatly decreases our chances.”
Jeff Friesen scored for New Jersey, which also got a stellar 21-save performance from Martin Brodeur in his first appearance in three games. The two-game rest was the longest for Brodeur since he missed two games with the flu in the 1997-98 season.
“A little luck here or there and it could have been our side,” Brodeur said after the Devils had a three-game (2-0-1) unbeaten streak snapped. “We had a lot of opportunities but they played well defensively.”
O’Neill scored his 10th of the season with 1:55 left in the second period. He took a pass from Pavel Brendl in the slot and snapped a shot past Brodeur.
“It was a play from the corner and Whitey (defenseman Colin White) was caught in the middle,” Brodeur said. “It went right through his legs. I was in good position but it didn’t hit me.”
After failing to score in the opening 32 minutes, the teams traded goals in a 21-second span in the second period.
Vasicek opened the scoring at 12:26 by taking a cross-ice pass from Ron Francis and hitting a virtually open net for his 13th goal.
Friesen and Sergei Brylin didn’t waste any time in tying it. Brylin set up the goal by carrying the puck into the Carolina zone and making the nice pass that Friesen directed into an open net.
Neither Brodeur nor Weekes had a chance on either goal.
Weekes made tough saves on Patrik Elias and Friesen early in the thirdperiod, but the Devils didn’t threaten much after that.
Devils C Igor Larionov was a healthy scratch, just a day after being benched for part of Tuesday’s win over Pittsburgh. … New Jersey is 1-for-20 on the power play in the last seven games, including 0-for-2 on Wednesday. … RW Justin Williams got his first point for the Hurricanes on Vasicek’s goal. Hewas acquired in trade with Philadelphia on Tuesday.