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Game 60: Kovalchuk Nets Game Winner As Devils Down Predators

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The Devils newest acquisition, Ilya Kovalchuk, went four games without scoring a goal after being traded from the Atlanta Thrashers almost two weeks ago.

Tonight was his coming out party.

Kovalchuk scored the game winning goal in the third period, and the Devils defeated the Predators, 5-2.

Kovalchuk’s first goal as a Devil at 8:24 broke a 3-3 tie in the third period. Patrick Elias carried the puck up the side boards, bringing the defense with him. He sent a backhanded pass to streaking Kovalchuk, who carried the puck to the slot. Kovalchuk sent a wrist shot past the outstretched glove of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne for the goal.

After he scored, some Devils fans decided to throw their hats on the ice to celebrate the goal. Kovalchuk was named the first star of the game, and recorded two points and finished  the game with a +3 rating.

The Devils began the scoring at 9:49 in the first period. Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner carried the puck into the Predator’s zone, where he skated around two Predators defenseman. He went into the slot and held the puck just below the goal line, drawing Rinne out of the goal. Langenbrunner then passed the puck to Travis Zajac, who tapped the puck into the empty net for his 19th goal of the season.

Zajac’s 19 goals is the second-highest goal output of his career. His career high is 20 goals, which he achieved last season.

After tying the game in the first period, the Predators took the lead 46 seconds into the second period. Predators right-winger Jordin Tootoo carried the puck over the blue line and used Devils defenseman Andy Greene to screen goalie Martin Brodeur. Tootoo let go a wrist shot from the point that beat Brodeur for his fourth goal of the season.

But the Devils responded with a goal of their own 1:14 later. Elias carried the puck over the blue line and blasted a slap shot from the point. The puck beat Rinne high for the game-tying goal. It’s Elias’ 11th of the season.

Then Kovalchuk took over.

After scoring the game-winner, Kovalchuk assisted on Parise’s powerplay goal at 13:08 in the third period. With Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis in the box for tripping, Kovalchuk carried the puck down the side boards. He attempted to pass the puck to the front of the net, but the puck deflected off the skate of Predator’s defenseman Shea Webber. Parise picked up the loose puck in the slot and put a wrist shot past Rinne to give the Devils a two goal lead.

The victory was the Devils fifth in their last 16 games. The team plays the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow in their final game before the Olympic break.

Game Notes:

The Devils powerplay is anemic as of late, going 3-28 over their last five contests (the team was 1-for-5 tonight). One of those missed chances was a two-man advantage, which the Devils are only 2-for-17 this season…Despite their second period goal, the Devils have still been outscored, 12-2, in the second period of their last six games…Kovalchuk’s goal drought of six games (two with Atlanta, four with the Devils) was the second longest of his career. He had a nine-game scoreless streak with Atlanta in 2008.

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