Alexei Ponikarovsky is a veteran journeyman who will never be confused with the great playoff goal scorers of his era. But Thursday night, the left wing scored a huge goal that put the Devils ahead 2-1 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Flyers.
Ponikarovsky converted his own rebound at 17:21 of overtime to give the Devils a 4-3 win that allowed them to maintain the home-ice advantage they picked up by winning Game 2 in Philadelphia.
The Devils will try to take full control of the series Sunday, which happens to be goalie Martin Brodeur's 40th birthday.
Ponikarovsky scored his first goal in 10 games in this year's playoffs and only his fourth while playing 48 games for four teams.
His goal capped a night that saw right wing Ilya Kovalchuk return after missing one game with a herniated disc and score a goal and add two assists in a spirited, hard-fought game. His last pass was to Ponikarovsky for the winner.
Talking about the play, Ponikarovsky said, "I just found a hole and Kovy made a good pass. He sees the ice well, so give him credit on that. We had kind of a 2-on-1 going on, but I just tried to shoot the puck and good things happened."
The Devils killed off two Philadelphia power plays in overtime before escaping with the win, but they were quick to point out a 2-1 series lead is no cause for celebration.
"Of course we're much happier being up 2-1 than down 2-1, but there's still a lot of hockey to be played and we're not going to get ahead of ourselves too much," said captain Zach Parise. "They're a great hockey team."
Center Patrik Elias and Kovalchuk scored 20 seconds apart to wipe out a 1-0 deficit, and left wing Parise stuffed home a goal that made it 3-2, but each time the Devils went ahead the Flyers came back.
Now, the Flyers have to come back down in games for the first time in the playoffs.
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.