Watching Friday night’s Devils game against the Washington Capitals, I thought it was just a matter of time before Ilya Kovalchuk put his stamp on the game.
The Devils’ top-scorer was buzzing all night long, yet he could not find a way to beat Michael Neuvirth.
Kovalchuk’s goal at 4:39 of the extra session sent the Devils to their third straight win, 3-2, over Washington at Prudential Center.
Though the Devils blew a 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of late goals, they still improved to 3-0 for the first time in 10 years.
Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias scored goals for New Jersey. Marek Zidlicky had two assists.
Washington fell to 0-3-1, despite rallying in the third period. The Capitals scored two goals during a 4:19 stretch to force overtime and earn their first point.
Things went swimmingly for New Jersey for the first 40 minutes.
Though the Caps were the aggressor for the game’s first five minutes, that all seemed to shift when Jay Beagle took the first of his two minor penalties. Although his trip on Henrik Tallinder was canceled by Kovalchuk’s interference minor, that whole stretch led to the Devils’ first goal.
It seemed as if puck luck was on New Jersey’s side, as well, for much of the first two periods. Jacob Josefson carried the puck to the middle of the ice at the end of the PK, and Washington defender Tomas Kundratek got his stick on the puck, but it landed right on Gionta’s stick. Gio beat Neuvirth over the blocker, giving New Jersey a 1-0 lead.
“[Josefson] made a great play driving the net, and the puck ended up on my stick,” Gionta told MSG’s Deb Placey during the first intermission, “and I just closed my eyes and shot it.”
Though New Jersey outshot Washington 20-14 through two periods– including 14-6 in the second– Neuvirth was the difference.
He just didn’t get much help from his defense.
John Carlson was a minus-2. And although Mike Green had a goal and an assist– and was chosen as the game’s No. 2 star– I didn’t think he was great in his own end. He also took a penalty in overtime.
I’m not even going to touch Alexander Ovechkin’s disappearing act.
The Devils are going to run into hot goaltenders and probably lose some games because of them. That’s just how hockey works.
They’re fortunate it didn’t cost them two points on Friday.
After Dave Turner put him on the “cold” list in this week’s column, Elias showed he wanted to be taken off that list.
Elias FINALLY netted his first of 2013, on a 5-on-3 power play at 19:00 of the second, which gave the Devils a 2-0 lead.
Elias also had an assist on Kovalchuk’s winner, and he was a plus-1.
Zidlicky, who also landed on Turner’s “Hot and Not” column, had a bi-polar game. He had two assists, including a stellar diagonal pass on Kovalchuk’s winner. But he took another penalty– his fourth in two games– and was out of position for much of the first period.
Zidlicky’s third period penalty started a cavalcade of Devils to the box.
The Devils killed seven of eight penalties, with four of those kills coming in the third. They were whistled for three bench minors– two too many men penalties and an “abuse of officials” unsportsmanlike penalty. The Devils’ kill generated offensive chances– as Dainius Zubrus, Gionta and Josefson each had shorthanded tries that Neuvirth thwarted.
The Devils’ PK finally relinquished on Mike Ribeiro’s five-on-three goal at 12:45, which cut New Jersey’s lead to 2-1. It also ended Martin Brodeur’s shutout streak of 125:33.
New Jersey’s penalty kill has now surrendered two goals in 18 PK tries. Their 89 percent kill rating lands them fifth in the NHL.
It is baffling to me that the Caps, with all their firepower, still haven’t won a game yet.
Look at the names: Ovechkin, Ribeiro, Nicklas Backstrom, Wojtek Wolski, Green, Carlson. Washington has only scored eight goals in four games.
I think it’s only a matter of time before they get rolling, and when they get rolling, it’ll be because Ovechkin dials up his effort. It looked, at times, like he was trying to do too much himself. That was evident when he coughed up the puck in Washington’s offensive zone in overtime– a play which led to Kovalchuk’s game-winner.
The Devils outshot Washington 8-1 in overtime.
All in all, it was a non-descript night for Brodeur. Although, it seemed he was out of position on Green’s goal. He made 26 saves, but there weren’t too many outstanding ones, although his stop on Ribeiro’s first-period off a two-on-one break stands out.
David Clarkson continued his stellar start.
Clarkson sacrificed his body to gain his third point in as many games. He re-directed Zidlicky’s hard, low shot to Elias on his second-period mark.
Clarkson also tied for the team-lead with six shots.
Through the NHL season’s first week, the Atlantic Division looks like this:
W L OTL Pts GF GA
3 0 0 6 8 3 NEW JERSEY
2 2 0 4 14 13 NY ISLANDERS
2 2 0 4 13 13 PITTSBURGH
1 3 0 2 9 14 NY RANGERS
1 3 0 2 5 12 PHILADELPHIA
The Devils are by-far the lowest scoring first-place team in the game. They’ve also allowed the fewest goals in the NHL.
UP NEXT: The Devils trek north of the border to Montreal to take on the Canadiens on Sunday at 6 p.m.
Pat Pickens is a lifelong Devils-fan and New Jersey native. To pay the bills, he works as a sports reporter for Hearst in Connecticut. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter here.