Koval-Choke Becomes Koval-Clutch!

Devils 4 Edmonton 3           overtime

In the span of 48 hours, Ilya Kovalchuk experienced first hand why so many people love sports — the agony of heart-breaking losses, and the thrill of dramatic, heart-stopping victories. On Wednesday night when his New Jersey Devils lost to the Buffalo Sabres, Kovalchuk never got to take his shootout attempt because the puck jumped off of his stick blade as he was stickhandling — sending him to the locker room frustrated and embarrassed.

After a solid day of practice, he was ready to move on, “It’s all history. Today the sun is up and everything is good,” Kovalchuk said on Thursday with a fresh outlook. “Tomorrow we have to win because we don’t have a win at home yet; that’s embarrassing.”

Friday night at Prudential Center it was Kovalchuk who accomplished that mission when he scored the winning goal — in overtime, capping a rally that saw New Jersey get off the mat after falling behind 3-1 to the young Edmonton Oilers. Throughout the game the Russian sniper had a handful of shots that never reached the net and entering overtime, he had still yet to register a shot on goal.

Despite only having scored three goals in fifteen games and despite all of his recent lack of puck-luck, he continued to work hard and 2:15 into the five-minute o.t. he drew a penalty on Edmonton’s Dustin Penner who tripped him at center ice along the boards. The Devils coach, John MacLean, called a timeout and before a minute had elapsed in Penner’s penalty, Kovalchuk had won the game with a rocket shot past Oilers’ goalie Devan Dubnyk from the left circle. “It feels good. But we’re still, I don’t know, 14th or 15th in our conference,” said Kovalchuk, “which is not where we want to be.”

Before the game was ten minutes old, New Jersey found themselves down by two goals — thanks in large part to Edmonton’s Colin Fraser, who scored both. The Devils continued to fire shots at Dubnyk and 5:57 after Fraser’s second tally, rookie Alexander Vasyunov took a pass from Travis Zajac and scored his first career NHL goal on a nice redirection in front of the crease.

Sam Gagner restored the two-goal bulge for the Oilers when he scored on a rebound 5:11 into the second period, silencing the crowd at the Rock who came hoping to see the first home win of the season. The next ten minutes were frustrating for New Jersey as they fired shot after shot at Dubnyk and had nothing to show for it until Brian Rolston finally scored with 3:08 left in the period. On the scoring play, David Clarkson’s wraparound attempt was denied but the loose puck came right to Rolston who was standing in the blue paint of the crease. “It was just a good play, a hard-working shift by our whole line. Clarkie came around the net, wrapped the puck and I just got the rebound,” explained Rolston, “I was basically on top of the goalie so I didn’t have to shovel it too far.”

With 15:31 left in the third period rookie Mattias Tedenby (playing in his second NHL game) thought he had scored his first career goal, but was robbed by Dubnyk’s sharp glove hand. The 20-year old Swede finally got his first career goal when he tied the game with 9:00 left on the power play. Andy Greene fired a shot from the blueline that Tedenby deflected from the slot and under the Edmonton netminder. “I think it hit my (stick) blade,” said the diminutive rookie after the game. “It felt very good when I scored out there.”

Kovalchuk was able to complete the comeback for the Devils in overtime and for the second game in a row they scored four goals — perhaps a sign that they are coming out of their season-long collective slumps. “Obviously it was big,’ said Patrik Elias (2 assists) after the game. “I’m pretty sure he’s relieved and it was a big goal for all of us.” Kovalchuk concurred, adding, “We never gave up, it was a great team effort and a great comeback; we’re definitely going to build on this.”

Game Notes: Kovalchuk now has eleven career overtime goals, which ranks third in NHL history; his teammate Elias is tied for first all-time with 15. Rolston returned to the lineup after missing 14 games due to a sports hernia. Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney led all players with five blocked shots, led all skaters with 30:26 of ice-time and he also chipped in with two assists; Greene led the Devils in ice-time with 27:39. Elias led all players with six shots on goal, while Edmonton rookie Taylor Hall (last June’s no. 1 overall draft pick) led his team with five. Both captains didn’t play in the game due to injury — New Jersey’s Jamie Langenbrunner (soreness) and Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff (thigh bruise). Fraser’s two goals were the first two of the season for him. New Jersey (5-10-2) is off until Monday when they play at Boston (8-4-1) while Edmonton (4-8-3) next plays Sunday afternoon at MSG against New York (8-7-1).

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) – gw/pp goal (4)

#2 – Colin Fraser (Edm) – 2 goals (2)

#3 – Patrik Elias (NJ) – 2 assists (9)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

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If You’re Not First, You’re Last; but…

Normally that’s how I see things: ‘If You Ain’t First, You’re Last’ — Ricky Bobby; but after seeing how Team USA played at the Winter Olympics, a silver medal isn’t too bad for a group that no one was too familiar with and no one gave a chance to medal in the tournament filled with powerhouses.

So I felt I should thank the 23 players that made me not only proud to be an American, but proud to be a fan of American hockey. Thank you guys for giving us a scintillating two weeks of hockey and hope you can bring home the gold in 2014.

Team USA 2010:
Goalies
Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas & Jonathan Quick

Defenseman:
Tim Gleason, Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson, Brooks Orpik, Brian Rafalski, Ryan Suter & Ryan Whitney

Forwards:
David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Patrik Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan & Paul Stastny

Devils-Ducks Postgame Quotes [11.11.09]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Wednesday’s 3-1 Devils win over the Ducks:

Martin Brodeur:

Talk about the next three games (at Pitt, vs. Wash., at Philly)…

“It’s going to be a big week, a big weekend; these three games are going to be hard. This one is a back-to-back, so it was good to get a win in the front end.”

Did the ceremony make you think that you’d like to have a (Cup) celebration here at the Prudential Center?

“It doesn’t matter where (laughing), just another one would be awesome. I think it’s always nice to see things like that — because we worked really hard for the guys that were there — and for the young guys, it makes you realize what you can achieve. These things are great; it’s a special year with us playing all three teams that we beat in the Stanley Cup Finals in one season. And it’s definitely nice to see the faces on the scoreboard and the faces of the few guys that were here.”

The PK was real strong tonight going 6-for-6…

“Yeah well…we got ourselves in penalty troubles – again too many men on the ice – twice in the game. Sometimes you pay the price when give these kind of freebies to the opposition, but our guys stepped in; we didn’t quit. Guys worked really hard on the PK and that’s why we were able to be dominant tonight.”

Zach Parise:

Talk about your shorthanded goal…

“It was a good play by Whitey to step up and hold the blueline there and Jamie was able to thread the needle there (to me). I think I caught (Ryan) Whitney a little flat-footed there and was able to jump past him and get a breakaway.”
You’ve seen time on the PK this year, how do you like it?

“I like it a lot; it’s better than sitting on the bench for two minutes. You want that responsibility, you want to be one of those guys that they (the coaches) feel comfortable having on the ice. Yeah, I like penalty killing.”

They say the worst thing you can do is give up a goal in the first or last minute of a period, was your goal a backbreaker for them?

“Yeah, they were on the power play, it’s a 2-1 game, they were looking to tie it up and we know it doesn’t feel good (to give up a goal there). We’ve been on the other side of that.”

For you it had to be a great feeling to score there…

“Yeah, it’s a good feeling (to score), regardless of when it comes. It’s definitely a good feeling being able to contribute.”

Jamie Langenbrunner:

Tough schedule coming up…

“Obviously we have some tough games coming up and it’s nice to start off this segment with a win. The thing about this league is we have a game tomorrow so we have another tough game and we have to focus on that.”
Talk about your goal in the opening minute…

“It was definitely a focus of ours to have better starts. A great job by Zubie to win the face-off, good job by Zach jumping in to get it, good shot by Greenie; I just went to the net and was able to get my stick on it.”

What part of your stick did you get on it?

“I got the blade on it I think; I’m not 100% sure, but I think it was the blade.”

David Clarkson:

You had a nice goal tonight, describe it…

“I think Greenie made the pass, it was just one of those plays that I saw the D coming across so I just pulled the puck across (my body). I knew that if I did that the goalie would be coming the other way, so I put it (my shot) back the other way and it went in the net.”

It seemed (Jonas) Hiller gave up a lot of rebounds tonight; is that something the team talked about?

“Yeah, I think you pick up on stuff like that – rebounds around the net. We knew we had to get there. You see Zach’s goal, it was hard work – he just kept banging at it and banging at it and it went in. Those are things we did talk about; the rebounds around the net, get to them and get pucks at him, because there’s a chance it could go in.”

Talk about the penalty kill tonight…

“The penalty kill was great. I took a couple of penalties myself – I’d have to see the replay to see if they were real penalties – but they (the PK) were huge. I came out of the box and thanked them, because I was the guy in the box most of the night.”

Marty said he keeps telling you that the toe drag doesn’t work anymore…

“(laughing) Yeah we were joking it’s a men’s league move but I guess it worked there tonight. The guys were bugging me a little bit, but you know what I was just going to the net and its something you try right? Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t; tonight it worked and I’m happy the puck went in.”

The shootout goal (in Tampa) and now this one – two nice goals you have now this season…

“I’m learning stuff (all the time), from players in this room and trying to pick up some moves that guys make to try and make myself better; and I find it’s helping me.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Is your team getting better?

“I think in some aspects of the game we’re getting better; not all of it, not yet.”

Where are the exceptions?

“(Smiles, then laughs) we have to get better at too many men on the ice…that’s one thing.”
But you’re good at it.

“Yeah exactly, we’re getting good at it.”

When you have this (winning) streak, there’s some sort of formula that’s enabling this streak. What’s enabled it? It’s six in a row now…

“It’s hard to say, it’s hard to say. I think right now we’re getting some breaks, which is a big part of it. I think the guys believe that they can be successful, that is a big part. They believe we can do it, they believe we can come back. So I think it’s all of this. We’re playing as a team more and more, but there are still little things.”

What do you call a break, what break did you get tonight?

“Tonight we worked well; we worked well enough to win the game. When they scored the goal, we picked it up, again, which was good. I thought tonight was our best start since the beginning of the season.”

What will stick with you about Clarkson: the move/shot on his goal or the penalties?

“The three penalties; I want the guys to play for the team – which he does – all the time. He’s going to get some penalties, it could be accidental, but the one that I really didn’t like (the too many men on the ice call) was when he jumped on the ice, he got the puck…when Zach just came in front of him. That’s the one I didn’t like. But on the other hand, when you look at it after the game…his goal was a huge goal. His goal was a huge goal.”

How about this kid from Rome, NY, Tim Sestito, he seems to fit in really well?

“He’s playing with energy which I love. He’s on the puck, and he’s in good position, he takes the man and plays as aggressive as he can and skates well. So, that’s why he’s playing.”

Will Brian Rolston go to Pittsburgh?

“Yes, he will be playing tomorrow.”

How good was your D tonight?

“They were as good as they’ve been all year. Maybe at the start we couldn’t find the high man, our long passes were not good. We were going D-to-D, or back to D; we don’t want that. We have to find the open players, and that we didn’t do too well at the start. But we talked about it and during the first period they started to get better.”

How impressed are you with Mark Fraser?

“Very impressed, very impressed…he’s solid. You know who would say, at the start of the year that this kid would be with us? Secondly, playing, now he’s among the top four (defenseman). He’s getting a lot of minutes and I love the way he plays. He’s very safe and aggressive and he’s playing a man’s game out there.”

Andy Greene led you club in ice-time and added two assists, your thoughts?

“He’s been very steady all year; probably the best defenseman up till now. He’s so calm and knows the game well. He’s sneaky – what I mean is he is getting away from guys and putting pucks where his teammates can get them. These little passes that he makes…its all smarts, stuff that he does.”

How much does he remind you of Scott Niedermayer?

“Greene? He doesn’t have Nieder’s speed. He has his finesse, the speed does it all for Nieder.”

The PK tonight?

“Tonight had to be our best, our best PK of the year so far.”

How was Patrik Elias tonight?

“Very good, you know he’s getting better and that’s what I like. I know he’s not at his best, but he’s got good skills and its coming. When he’s in top shape he’s going to help us a lot.”

Is he going to Pittsburgh?

“Yeah, I think he’s ready (for back-to-back games).”