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Game 17 Recap: Kovalchuk Blasts Devils To First Home Win

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Coming into tonight’s game, the New Jersey Devils found themselves near the bottom of the league, somewhere completely unfamiliar to them. The Edmonton Oilers, a perennial loser, could have been a team the Devils used to jumpstart their floundering season. Losing through two periods, the Devils came back to tie the game in the third and win it in overtime, 4-3. It was their first home win of the season, and they ended their homestand on a good note.

Kovalchuk vs. Oilers 11:12Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Image 

Ilya Kovalchuk Gets The Monkey Off His Back

Through the first sixteen games of the season, the Devils hadn’t seen the Kovalchuk they thought they were getting this summer. The left-winger couldn’t score and didn’t seem to gel with the players on the ice. He took some dumb penalties and looked lost on the ice. All of his frustrations culminated Wednesday night, when, breaking in on a shootout attempt, he lost the puck and didn’t get a shot on net. He left the ice to a chorus of boos.

The left-winger found redemption in a big way tonight in overtime. First, Kovalchuk drew a tripping penalty against Dustin Penner, putting the Devils on a 4-on-3 powerplay. But what he did next would turn Wednesday night’s boos into cheers.

With Penner in the box, Patrik Elias and Henrik Tallinder played catch at the point. Elias passed the puck to Tallinder, who sent it to Kovalchuk in the right circle. The left-winger one-timed the puck past Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk for his second game-winning goal of the year.

After the goal, Kovalchuk skated to center ice, pumping his fist and looking like a new man. That goal was a HUGE relief for the left-winger, and we’ll see if it can loosen his play in the coming games.

The Kids Are Alright

With all the injuries this season, the Devils needed to pepper rookies throughout their lineup. Many of them played important roles during their time with the team, but none were more important than the goals scored by both Alexander Vasyunov and Mattias Tedenby.

Vasyunov’s first career goal at 15:43 of the first period put the Devils on the board, cutting the Oilers lead to 2-1. Both Vasyunov and Travis Zajac stayed out for a long shift as they moved into the Oilers defensive zone. Elias corralled a loose puck at the side boards and moved to the goal line. Elias then layed a pass to Zajac along the end boards, who passed the puck to the front of the net. Vasyunov skated into the slot and beat Oilers goalie Devan Dubynk for the goal.

Not to be outdone, Tedenby scored his first NHL goal at 11:00 of the third period to tie the game, 3-3. With Ales Hemsky in the box for high-sticking, the Devils won a faceoff in the Oilers zone. Andy Greene held the puck along the point, and sent a shot on net. Tedenby tipped the puck into the back of the net for the goal.

Colton Fraser Makes The Devils Pay

Coming into tonight’s game, Fraser had no goals in 14 games this year. The five-year pro would change that, doubling his total in the first ten minutes of the game.

Fraser opened the game’s scoring at 4:34 of the period, putting the Oilers ahead, 1-0. The Oilers forward drove the net and tried to stuff the puck past Martin Brodeur. The Devils goalie made two stops, but Fraser knocked in the third attempt for his goal of the season.

Fraser’s second goal at 9:50 of the period extended the Oilers lead to  2-0. Ryan Jones began the play in his own zone, flipping the puck high into the Devils zone. Olivier Magnan attempted to glove down the puck, but he missed and was knocked off the puck. Foster picked up the loose puck in the low slot and fired it past the stick of Brodeur for his second goal of the season.

For the rest of the recap, read after the jump!

 Rolston vs. Oilers 11:12Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Image
Dubnyk Proves His First-Round Value

Many Devils’ fans expected to see Nikolai Khabibulin patrolling the crease tonight for the Oilers, but coach Tom Renney marched out backup Dubynk. While the rookie was an obscure afterthought before the game, his name will now be recognized after his outstanding performance against the Devils.

The Oilers drafted Dubnyk with the 14th overall selection during the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In three years in the AHL, Dubnyk never finished .500 or won over 20 games. But the goalie looked impressive tonight, stopping several quality chances and frustrating the Devils scorers the entire night.

Dubynk made the save of the night on Tedenby to rob the rookie at 4:29 of the period. With Jason Strudwick in the box for hooking, the Devils worked the puck around the zone. Tedenby received the puck in front of the net with no defender around. He put the puck to the top shelf, but Debnyk flashed the glove and made a terrific save.

Miscellaneous

The Devils went 2-for-3 tonight on the powerplay, the first time they’ve scored two man-advantage goals in the same game this season. In the past two games, the Devils scored three powerplay goals. They had four through their first 15 games.

David Clarkson entered the game with 34 penalty minutes. After a first period fight with Zach Stortini, in which the Devils’ right-winger earned an instigator and game misconduct penalty, he compiled half those minutes. He now has 51 penalty minutes this season.

Brodeur returned from an elbow injury and stopped 21 shots for the win.

Brian Rolston, in his first game back from injury, had a goal.

Next Game

The Devils head to Boston to face the Bruins Monday night. 

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