Devils’ Wedgewood needed ‘some NyQuil to fall asleep,’ but he looked calm in his NHL debut

Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Scott Wedgewood made his NHL debut on short notice, and it worked out great.

The 23-year-old Wedgewood made 27 saves and Devante Smith-Pelly scored the tiebreaking goal 8:38 into the third period to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The performance capped a whirlwind 18 hours for Wedgewood. He was sitting on a team bus after Albany’s AHL win at Utica on Saturday night when coach Rick Kowalsky told him he was being sent to the parent club and starting in a 5 p.m. game.

“I went to the back of the bus and tried to stay as calm as possible, calling my family and getting some plans in motion,” Wedgewood said. “Got home around 12 o’clock and had to take some NyQuil to fall asleep. Then we made the trip here this morning.”

His parents, two brothers and a sister in law made the game. Wedgewood looked like he belonged there, too.

“For a long time I had replayed this in my head,” he said. “I felt like it was just another hockey game, when it comes down to it. I felt I belonged here. Those things helped me step in and stay calm.”

Smith-Pelly provided the difference with his seventh goal in nine games in New Jersey. His forecheck on Nick Foligno forced the Columbus forward to send the puck around the boards. Devils defenseman Adam Larsson stopped it at the point and sent it to Smith-Pelly on the edge of the crease.

Joonas Korpisalo stopped his backhander but the Devils’ forward nudged the rebound into the net.

“I just got in front of the net and realized I had a little bit of time,” Smith-Pelly said. “I tried to make a move and I think it might have hit my leg. It was laying on the line. I just kind of dove and pushed it in.”

Reid Boucher also scored as New Jersey ended a six-game losing streak against the Blue Jackets (1-5-1), less than 24 hours after dropping a 6-3 decision in Columbus.

Jared Boll scored for the Blue Jackets, while Korpisalo made 20 saves.

Wedgewood, called up with Keith Kinkaid struggling playing every day for the injured Cory Schneider, made it stand up, with his last-second save on a slap shot by Brandon Dubinsky ending the game.

Both teams looked sluggish at times in their fifth and final meeting this season.

The Devils had the early spark, jumping to a 1-0 lead in the opening 4:32 on Boucher’s seventh goal of the season.

Kyle Palmieri, who scored twice on Saturday night, had his pass to Boucher tipped by a defenseman but the puck bounced forward off his knee. Boucher collected it and seemed to catch Korpisalo off guard with his shot from inside the left circle.

Boll tied the game 2:43 into the second period with his first goal of the season. Defenseman Dalton Prout wristed a shot from the right point that Blue Jackets’ enforcer tipped past Wedgewood.

The goal was originally credited to Prout but replays showed Boll tipped it for his first goal since Feb. 13, 2015.

“It would have been better with a win,” Boll said. “It feels good to contribute on the score sheet. When my line does that, it’s good things.”

The Devils had a chance to retake the lead later in the period when minor penalties to Prout and David Savard gave New Jersey a two-man advantage for 1:11. Travis Zajac had two hard shots from the left circle that Korpisalo handled.

Prout got a breakaway stepping out of the penalty box but he lost the puck making a move on Wedgewood.

“It was one of those games where both teams were trying to get that second one,” Blue Jackets coach John Tororella said. “We got impatient with our two D, and we give it up.”

NOTES: Wedgewood and D Vojtech Mozik were called up from Albany on an emergency basis on Sunday with the injury to D John Moore and Kinkaid struggling. G Yann Danis was sent back to Albany. … Columbus F Scott Hartnell played in his 1,100 NHL game. … Seven of the 20 Devils who played on Sunday played at least one game at Albany this season. … Devils F Tyler Kennedy left the game with a lower-body injury.