NEWARK, New Jersey — New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer stuck with goalie Cory Schneider, and the decision paid off with a much-needed win.
Schneider made 23 saves in his 16th straight start as the Devils beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Tuesday night to end a four-game losing streak. He is the only NHL goalie to start every game this season.
DeBoer called Schneider's performance "average" in a 4-2 loss at Boston on Monday. That fueled speculation that rookie backup Keith Kinkaid might get the start Tuesday.
"I thought he was excellent," DeBoer said of Schneider. "We needed that. Obviously, we were down after last night. It was a tough back-to-back against a rested Minnesota team. We needed that kind of bounce back from him."
Tuomo Ruutu and Mike Cammalleri scored second-period goals and Travis Zajac sealed the victory with a power-play score into an empty net in the closing seconds. Jaromir Jagr had two assists.
It was up to Schneider to make those goals stand up. He made several big saves, perhaps none more important than a sprawling stop to deny Erik Haula on a 2-on-0 break with Thomas Vanek late in the third period.
"Vanek has a great shot and I had to respect him, but then he makes the pass across to Haula and I was able to stick my toe out and got my toenail on it. It was a big save," Schneider said.
Ryan Carter scored against his former team and Darcy Kuemper stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who lost their fourth straight.
Ruutu broke a scoreless tie at 5:42 of the second period, deflecting home a shot from the left point by Seth Helgeson, who was making his NHL debut.
The tempo, tentative at best to that point, quickened following the first goal.
Minnesota came very close to countering as Mikael Granlund fired a hard shot off the post that landed in the slot. Schneider deftly reached behind him with his stick to swat the puck out of danger.
The near miss proved costly when New Jersey added a second goal about a minute later. Cammalleri knocked in the rebound of Jagr's shot at 9:53, giving the Devils a 2-0 lead.
Schneider preserved the shutout late in the period with a brilliant stop on Nate Prosser. Already down on the ice, Schneider shifted left to glove Prosser's drive from the right circle.
A miscue by Schneider put Minnesota on the board with a short-handed goal at 5:24 of the third.
Carter picked off Schneider's weak clearing pass and fired a soft shot from the left boards that slipped into the net to trim New Jersey's lead to 2-1.
That was a key point when the Devils, and Schneider, could have crumbled.
"I felt really responsible," Schneider said. "That was on me. I backed up a little too far, and just lost the net. It was a bad mistake."
It turned out to be his only one.
"It was hugely important for me to bounce back after Monday night," Schneider said. "I was very disappointed in myself. I knew I needed to be better and had to play better. I knew we needed a better effort from me."
There were few scoring chances for either team at even strength in the first period. Minnesota did have an excellent opportunity on each of its two power plays.
Jason Pominville hit Schneider in the chest at the right post on the first one. Schneider again came up big on the second penalty kill, denying Mikko Koivu in close.
The missed chances and close calls sent the Wild to another defeat.
"We had so many good looks and we played pretty well," Pominville said. "But at the end of the day, we need to find a way to put it in the back of the net and we didn't. If we scored one early, maybe it might have been a different game. We just have to keep battling, keep fighting, until we can get some of our injured guys back."
NOTES: Devils captain Bryce Salvador missed the game with a lower-body injury. New Jersey called up Helgeson from Albany (AHL) to replace him. ... Salvador joined the Devils' rapidly expanding injury list, which also includes C Adam Henrique (lower body), LW Ryan Clowe (hit to the head) and D Jon Merrill (arm). One bit of good news for the Devils on that front: LW Martin Havlat returned after missing nine games with a lower-body injury. ... The Wild also have injury woes. Leading scorer and former Devils star Zach Parise remains sidelined with a concussion. D Jared Spurgeon (upper body) and LW Matt Cooke (lower body) were also out. ... Linesman Steve Miller was ill according to the NHL, leaving three on-ice officials.