Talking Red

Game 3: Kovalchuk Wins It At Last As Devils Down Washington

Posted in on by Dan Pennucci

Those fans watching the Devils’ 3-2 overtime win over the Capitals on Friday let out a collective “It’s about time,” shout when Ilya Kovalchuk finally snuck a puck past Washington netminder Michal Neuvirth with 21 seconds remaining in the extra frame.

The Devils were living in Washington’s zone during the bonus session, launching shot after shot on Neuvirth but were unable to convert a power play earlier in overtime, awarded because of a Mike Green penalty. Solving Neuvirth was a vexing problem all evening, as the young netminder made new Washington coach (and former Devils’ assistant) Adam Oates appear a genius for giving him the start, as he turned aside 32 shots in the loss, giving the Caps their first point of the season. New Jersey also received goals from Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias.

Heading into Friday’s contest, New Jersey had played solidly enough in its first two games to earn a 2-0 record, conceding just one goal in the process. The Capitals were floundering, having surrendered four or more goals in each of their first three games, all losses to Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and Montreal, respectively. Naturally, after building a 2-0 lead heading into the third period, the Devils figured they would do everything in their power to let Washington back into the game, a Washington team that had few legitimate scoring chances in the game’s opening two frames.

The Capitals scored twice in the third period, getting a power-play goal from Mike Ribeiro and the equalizer from Mike Green, who blasted home a slap shot Martin Brodeur likely didn’t see. Unsurprisingly, the Green goal came off a woeful clearing attempt from the Devils, something fans have seen far too often over the years. Brodeur was hung out to dry on both Washington goals but turned away 26 shots while fending off seven of eight Capital power-play chances. Ribeiro’s goal was the first goal surrendered by New Jersey and Brodeur in over 125 minutes of play.

New Jersey found themselves living in the penalty box in the third period, having been whistled for five penalties, two of which resulted in the 5-on-3 advantage Washington capitalized on to end their scoring slump.  Several penalties were poorly taken, including two too many men on the ice calls against New Jersey as well as an unsportsmanlike call against Steve Bernier following Washington’s first goal.

It’s not as if the Devils didn’t have chances to score before converting in overtime, as they had numerous opportunities in the Capitals zone yet either fired wide or were robbed by Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth, most notably his sprawling glove save on Marek Zidlicky. Jacob Josefson saw two shorthanded opportunities go begging and, while the Devils picked up a power-play goal in the contest, there is still room for improvement.

The Devils did snag the all-important extra point and remain perfect on the season, 3-0, before traveling up to Quebec on Sunday to face Montreal.

Continue Reading for Notes and video of Kovalchuk’s game winning goal:

Notes: Injured center Adam Henrique (thumb) joined the Devils for Friday’s morning skate and still remains on pace for an early February return to the squad, as noted by the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti.

-Both Stefan Matteau and Jacob Josefson saw ice time on the left wing of Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk. Matteau played just 5:49 in the contest.

-Kovalchuk has four points over three games in the young season while Marek Zidlicky has registered three assists already, including two on Friday.

-Cam Janssen’s three-plus minutes of ice time were given to Krys Barch on Friday, as the other pugilist on New Jersey’s roster played 3:28 on five shifts. Janssen was a healthy scratch.

-David Clarkson recorded an accidental assist on Patrik Elias’ third-period power-play goal, having Zidlicky’s point shot deflect off his leg then Neuvirth’s pad before Elias finished the play.

-Zajac was solid at the dot all night, winning 17 of 25 draws, good enough for a 68-percent winning percentage.

-Mattias Tedenby saw a scant 8:07 of ice time on 12 shifts.

-The Devils’ power play showed improvement on Friday in terms of passing the puck around the zone, but still need to get more pucks on goal.

Follow Dan Pennucci on Twitter @dpennucci 

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  • http://twitter.com/ejfagan EJ Fagan

    My impression of the game was definitely mixed. Zidlicky and Salvador got burned badly several times, but Zidlicky made up for it on offense. Josefson was flying all over the place, and Elias had a really underrated game.

    Still, its a sloppy team that got bailed out by Martin Brodeur and decent luck. The Devils need to tighten the screws quite a bit.