Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now

Pittsburgh at New Jersey

Kovalchuk keeps earning his money, Devils win again

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the first time in a while, Ilya Kovalchuk wasn't at his best.

It didn't stop the $100 million man from scoring yet another winning goal for the New Jersey Devils.

Kovalchuk scored on a power play with 24.9 seconds left in overtime and Martin Brodeur made 25 saves as the Devils continued their remarkable playoff push with a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

"Marty was really good," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "Not as much Kovy. Kovy scored the big goal. That's what he is getting paid for, but tonight I know he can play better. He can play better."

The goal was the second straight winner for Kovalchuk, his sixth in the last 12 games and his ninth of the season.

Eastern Conference
SeedTeamGPPTSROW
1z-Pittsburgh487233
2y-Montreal486326
3y-Washington485724
4x-Boston486224
5x-Toronto485726
6x-N.Y. Rangers485622
7x-Ottawa485621
8x-N.Y. Islanders485520
Eliminated
9o-Winnipeg485122
10o-Philadelphia484922
11o-New Jersey484817
12o-Buffalo484814
13o-Carolina484218
14o-Tampa Bay484017
15o-Florida483612
Complete Playoff Race >>

"I'm not doing anything differently," said Kovalchuk, whose giveaway set up the Penguins' goal by Tyler Kennedy. "I just knew we would get our chance in the end. I gave the puck away on the goal in the second period and I felt like I had to do something to get it back. I think the team is finding me in key situations. I think every hockey player wants to be in that kind of situation in overtime, getting a power play. I'm just glad I got the chance to end it."

Kovalchuk's 23rd goal of the season gave New Jersey its 19th win in 23 games (19-2-2) and handed the injury ravaged Penguins their eighth loss in 10 games (2-5-3).

New Jersey is nine points behind eighth-place Carolina.

"We're playing our game right now," said Travis Zajac, who got the Devils' other goal. "The games are getting tougher and closer, because we're not getting the same scoring chances that we got when we started the run. So we have to make the most of the chances we're getting. We're still behind the pack right now and we have to keep fighting."

The winner came with the Devils on their only power play of the game. Zbynek Michalek was sent off for hooking at 2:46 of the overtime and the exhausted Penguins blocked most of the Devils chances until Brent Johnson made an amazing sliding save on Patrik Elias near the left corner of the net.

Johnson could not regain his footing and Elias made a diving pass to get the puck to Kovalchuk between the circles for a shot into a wide-open net that allowed the Devils to celebrate again.

The Penguins played well despite still being without Sidney Crosby (concussion).

"We thought we deserved better," Pittsburgh forward Mike Rupp said. "The bottom line is things haven't gone our way so we are going to keep building off it and keep going and eventually we'll be able to get out of the little funk we are in and start winning these games."

The Penguins played most of the game with five defenseman after Kris Letang got an early game misconduct for not tying down his jersey.

"Losing a defenseman early is never easy but I thought the guys stepped up and really played well," said Johnson, who had 28 saves.

Both teams had chances to break the tie in the third period with Brian Rolston coming closest when he hit the crossbar with just over 4 minutes to play after being set up by kick pass from Dainius Zubrus.

Kennedy probably had the Penguins best chance, handcuffing Brodeur with a shot from the right circle early in the period.

Zajac, who got only his third career fighting major in the opening minutes, gave the Devils a 1-0 lead with a great individual effort that also took advantage of some sloppy play by the Penguins in their own end.

Zajac picked up a loose puck in center ice, skated into the Pittsburgh end, split Michalek and fellow defenseman Paul Martin and beat Johnson with a backhander at 3:44 for his 10th goal of the season.

The lead lasted a little more than two minutes and this time it was a Devils' mistake that allowed Kennedy to tie it.

Kovalchuk, who tallied his eighth winning goal on Wednesday against Tampa Bay, lost control of the puck on the outside of the right circle in his own end. Kennedy collected the puck and got off a quick shot that beat Brodeur for his 15th goal of the season.

Both teams had excellent scoring over the final 15 minutes.

Devils rookie Nick Palmieri hit the crossbar midway through the period, while Johnson had four good saves with the toughest being stops on Elias and Jacob Josefson.

Mark Letestu nearly put the Penguins ahead late in the period with a bank shot off Brodeur after the goalie gave away the puck.

Notes

  • Letang got the game misconduct 6:14 after the opening faceoff for not having his jersey tied down in a fight with Zajac.
  • The wife of Devils forward David Clarkson gave birth to a girl, McKinnley, on Friday morning.
  • The crowd of 17,625 was the Devils' sixth sellout in 32 home games.
  • Kennedy has eight goals since Feb. 2.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
Devils players rush the ice after Ilya Kovalchuk (17) scores his second straight winner and sixth in the last 12 games. (AP)
Devils players rush the ice after Ilya Kovalchuk (17) scores his second straight winner and sixth in the last 12 games. (AP)

Scoreboard
Pittsburgh (37-21-8)01001
New Jersey  (29-31-4) «01012
Three Stars
I. Kovalchuk
NJ


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
T. Kennedy
PIT


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
T. Zajac
NJ


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
None
2ND PERIOD
03:43 - Travis Zajac (10), Backhand Shot. Assist: Palmieri, Greene
05:58 - Tyler Kennedy (15), Wrist Shot, Unassisted.
3RD PERIOD
None
OT
04:35Power Play - Ilya Kovalchuk (23), Snap Shot. Assist: Elias, Rolston
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
06:14Zajac, 5 min, Fighting
06:14Letang, 5 min, Fighting
06:14Letang, 10 min, Game Misconduct
2ND PERIOD
14:03Zubrus, 2 min, High-Sticking
3RD PERIOD
07:33White, 2 min, Boarding
OT
02:46Michalek, 2 min, Hooking
Shots On Goal
 123T
PIT971026
NJ813627
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Brent Johnson 64:35282
Martin Brodeur 64:35251
Game Information
Attendance - 17625
Referees - Dennis LaRue, Francois St-Laurent
Linesmen - Steve Barton, Scott Driscoll
 
Other Games
NYR 4 Final
Ott 1
Car 2 Final
Chi 5
Colu 3 Final
Cal 4
Dal 3 Final
OT
Ana 4