Earlier in the season the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders were in a battle to see who had the worst record in the NHL. Now they are two of the hottest teams in the league, and the Devils continued to rise from the dead on Wednesday night with their fifth straight win, topping the Carolina Hurricanes for the second time in eight days. New Jersey is now 12 points behind the eighth place ‘Canes with 25 games remaining.
Johan Hedberg made 25 saves as New Jersey raced out to a 3-0 lead and then held on for a 3-2 win. Ilya Kovalchuk continued his torrid second half pace, netting his 20th goal of the season to get the scoring started in the second period. After a scoreless opening twenty minutes, it was Kovalchuk (20 goals for the ninth consecutive season) who beat Cam Ward with a dazzling shot at 5:41, giving his team a lead they would never relinquish.
In the early stages of the third period Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias scored goals 1:25 apart, leaving Carolina dazed, confused and in a 3-0 hole. Both goals came during 4-on-4 play as the Devils exposed the ‘Canes with the extra space on the ice. First Rolston converted Elias’ rebound for his ninth goal of the year at :34 and then Elias buried a backhand shot past Ward after taking a cross-ice feed from Rolston.
Hedberg lost his bid for his second shutout of the year when Sergei Samsonov scored at 8:17 and Tuomo Ruutu finished the scoring with 2.8 seconds remaining, making the game seem closer than it actually was. Next up for the Devils are the floundering New York Rangers on Friday night at Prudential Center, before a rematch with the Hurricanes in Carolina on Saturday night.
Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Johan Hedberg (NJ) — 25 saves, win (10): The Moose was solid again, now has .500 record
#2 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) — goal (20): Kovy continues his torrid pace, money well spent
#3 — Patrik Elias (NJ) — gw goal (14), assist (29): NJ’s leading scorer continues to lead.