The sun’s going to shine just a little brighter for Ilya Kovalchuk tomorrow.
Only 48 hours after his shootout miscue in a loss to Buffalo, Kovalchuk drew a penalty in overtime then scored on the ensuing power play to clinch the Devils’ 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.
The Devils battled back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1, notching the final three goals of the night to secure their first home victory of 2010-11. Brian Rolston scored in his first game since Oct. 9, and Alexander Vasyunov and Mattias Tedenby each netted their first NHL goals.
Kovalchuk’s speed forced Dustin Penner into a tripping penalty along the boards at 2:41 of overtime. He then sealed the ‘W’ with 1:33 to go in the extra session by one-timing Henrik Tallinder’s pass from the left circle, and beating Edmonton goaltender Devan Dubnyk low, glove side off the right post.
“Biggest home win of the season,” joked head coach John MacLean after witnessing his club’s impressive rally. New Jersey (5-10-2) won for the first time in 11 games when trailing after the second period, and improved to 1-5-2 at Prudential Center.
“They scored the first two goals, but we never gave up,” Kovalchuk said. “That’s a great team effort and a great comeback. We’re definitely going to build on it.”
That’s a great team effort and a great comeback. We’re definitely going to build on it.- Ilya Kovalchuk
Kovalchuk left the ice to boos on Wednesday, when he lost control of the puck while trying to keep the Devils alive in the shootout. On Friday, he could’ve ridden off the ice on the shoulders of the 14,650 who were on their feet and chanting “Kovy.”
“That’s nice,” he said. “Better than last game. I really appreciate that, and we really need our fans. We have to do that together and when you play in front of that kind of crowd, that’s fun and you get some extra energy from them.”
After the Buffalo loss, Kovalchuk made a point of saying the frustration of that shootout was in the past. Friday’s triumph made it a lot easier to put it behind him.
“Like I said (Thursday) after practice, the sun came up and that’s all history,” he said. “You can’t really focus on that. Those things are going to happen, especially with the way things have happened with me this year. You just have to keep your head up and work.”
So will it be sunnier for Kovalchuk tomorrow?
Tedenby has a goal and an assist in his first two NHL games.
“It’s actually pretty nice weather the last couple of days, so that’s good,” he said.
Edmonton took a 3-1 lead in the second period before Rolston brought the Devils back within one. He was stationed on the doorstep to poke home David Clarkson’s wraparound rebound at 16:52 of the middle frame. It was a sweet reward for Rolston, who missed 14 games to recover from sports hernia surgery.
“A win is a win,” Rolston said. “We got one tonight. It wasn’t pretty, but we come back and I’m happy for Kovy to get that goal. He’s going to produce and it just showed his character tonight to come back. He had a strong effort after what happened last game.”
Tedenby’s power-play redirection tied the game at 3-3 with 9:00 to go in regulation. Tedenby got a stick on Andy Greene’s wrist shot from the blue line for his first goal in just his second NHL game. He credited linemates Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias.
"They're great players," he said. "We worked hard. Arny and Elias made a lot of space with smart passes."
He might've had two if not for an incredible save by Dubnyk on a power play in the opening five minutes of the third. The goalie flashed his catching glove to rob Tedenby's rebound chance from the slot.
"How could I miss that," Tedenby, the Devils' first-round pick in 2008, said. "That's embarrassing."
Martin Brodeur returned after missing two games with a bruised right elbow, and recorded 21 saves for his fourth win of the season.
“It’s about time,” said Brodeur. “What is it, the middle of November now? It’s definitely overdue for us to get a win in this building. Our fans have been supporting us with decent crowds, and had nothing to show for it. For them, definitely an exciting game, a comeback game like today. I think it’s going to please a lot of people.”
Brodeur smiled when asked about Kovalchuk breaking through for his fourth goal of the season, and second OT winner (Oct. 13 at Buffalo). The goal snapped Kovalchuk’s seven-game drought.
“We’re happy for him,” Brodeur said. “We see him work hard and today he was going, trying to get shots through and nothing’s going through for him. Right now, he’s just in that little rut. For him to get that chance and hit the (right) post on a great shot, second overtime goal – that’s clutch. Call it the way you want, the way he started the season, that’s two game-winners he has in five (Devils) wins now.”
Vasyunov's move to the top line paid off with his first NHL goal.
Vasyunov cut the deficit to 2-1 with under five minutes to go in the first. From the right corner, Elias passed behind the net for Zajac, who fed Vasyunov at the top of the crease. The Russian rookie beat Dubnyk glove side for his first goal in his eighth career game.
"First goal, really exciting," Vasyunov said. "It was good tonight. Really good pass (from Zajac). I just wait a little bit and go to the net. It was an awesome pass."
Edmonton’s Colin Fraser opened the scoring in the first period. Jordan Eberle carried the puck down the left wing, avoiding a hip check by Anton Volchenkov before cutting toward the slot and eluding a hit from Clarkson. Fraser got to the loose puck, eventually following up his own rebound to chip it by Brodeur at the right post at 4:34.
Fraser added his second of the period for a 2-0 Oilers lead. Ryan Jones lofted the puck out of his own zone and into Devils’ territory, where Olivier Magnan gloved it out of the air as he was bumped by Zack Stortini. Fraser collected and beat Brodeur to his stick side at 9:50.
Sam Gagner restored the Oilers’ two-goal cushion in the second period. The Devils got caught in a line change, and Gagner rushed a 2-on-1 with Ales Hemsky against Tallinder. The Devils’ defenseman slid to block Gagner’s pass attempt, but the puck found a trailing Taylor Hall, who put it toward the net. Gagner ended up batting it out of the air to make it 3-1 at 5:11.
John MacLean on what he liked best about the win:
MacLean: I like that they hung in with it the whole game. We gave up a couple early and we battled back each time. We got rewarded. We got a break with the power play at the end. We had a couple of power-play goals to help us out tonight, which is a positive.
On what he thinks the win meant for Kovalchuk:
It's important for him, also for our team. Hopefully it gets him going, more so for him to build off this win.
On the winning goal:
We had the guys in the right spot. Patrik and Tally moved the puck really well. In a 4-on-3, you try and go into a little bit of an umbrella there, which they did. Kovy made a great shot and it went in. If it hits (Dubnyk's) pads, Jason is standing right there by himself for the rebound also. I think the patience of Patrik and Tally was good, and Kovy getting in that spot to get the shot off.
He's one of those kids. Keep working, he could be a special player. The puck seems to follow him. He has great speed. We need to be patient with him at times. He has ice in his veins there when he has the puck. He's comfortable with it. That's something that you have or you don't have and he has it. Hopefully he can keep it going and have a nice career.
On the play of the young guys:
Vas, he's starting to come. He's starting to use his speed, use his assets, his strength, and gaining confidence as he grows in the understanding of the game, also.
DEVILS NOTES The Devils finished 1-1-1 on the homestand, and now go on a three-game trip that starts Monday in Boston with stops Thursday at Toronto and next Saturday at St. Louis. Their next home game is Monday, Nov. 22 against Washington.
• New Jersey entered Friday's action 0-7-0 when trailing after the first period, and 0-10-0 when trailing after two.
• Denis Pederson and Jason Smith were the last Devils to score their first NHL goals in the same game. (Oct. 12, 1995 vs. Winnipeg)
• After going 0-for-13 over a five-game drought, the Devils' power play has connected three times in two games, including two goals on Friday.
"We moved the puck, we're starting to move the puck a little bit," MacLean said. "We're starting to make a couple of passes and having a little composure with it."
• New Jersey has scored eight goals in two games after getting shutout twice in the previous three contests.
"That's very helpful that the puck's going in," MacLean said.
• Brodeur on how his right elbow felt: “It’ll be fine. I’ve got two days here before the next game.”
• Though Edmonton sits last in the West, they have plenty of young talent like 2010 first overall pick Taylor Hall.
“When you play young teams, you never know,” Brodeur said. “And these guys, right from the get-go, I think their skill showed up right away. They scored a few goals and after that, I think their lack of experience showed for us coming back in the game.”
1 - 0 EDM
2 - 0 EDM
2 - 1 EDM
3 - 1 EDM
3 - 2 EDM
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 NJD