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NEWARK, N.J. -- A big victory before a sellout crowd at Prudential Center may have come at a cost for the New Jersey Devils on Saturday when forward Ilya Kovalchuk was forced to leave the game midway through the third period with an apparent right-shoulder injury.
Forward David Clarkson scored what proved to be the decisive goal 11:03 into the second, and Martin Brodeur made it stand behind 17 saves as the Devils scored a 2-1 triumph against the Florida Panthers.
For the Devils, it was their second straight win. The Panthers, who were playing the third of a five-game road swing, saw a two-game winning streak come to an end.
Kovalchuk appeared to hurt his right shoulder when he broke in 1-on-4 before losing his edge and barreling into the end boards behind the Panthers' net with 10:53 remaining. Kovalchuk appeared to be attempting to curl defenseman Colby Robak on the play. The big Russian skated off the ice on his own power, wincing in pain, to the Devils dressing room.
Less than a minute later, forward Devils forward Tim Sestito appeared to suffer a shoulder or upper-back injury when Robak slammed him into the boards. Robak was given a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct for the hit.
The goalies were sharp in the third period, when the Devils held an 11-6 advantage in shots. Florida's Scott Clemmensen came up big with his team shorthanded when Patrik Elias backhanded an attempt while splitting two defenders down the slot before retrieving his own rebound that was also turned away at 6:31.
The Panthers took advantage of a poor play by Brodeur behind his own cage with 9.8 seconds remaining in the second to pare the deficit to 2-1. While attempting to wrap the puck around the wall, Brodeur fanned, and Tomas Fleischmann picked up the puck and fed Peter Mueller cruising down the slot. Mueller easily one-timed the pass into a wide-open net, his seventh goal of the season.
The Devils opened a 1-0 lead 1:24 into the second when Elias broke in 2-on-1 with Travis Zajac and redirected a perfectly placed feed while cutting down the slot. Panthers defenseman Filip Kuba was playing the pass on the play but failed to find the puck on Zajac's picturesque feed from the right circle.
Brodeur made a great save to keep the Devils ahead when he denied rookie Jonathan Huberdeau at 4:47 off a strong backhand attempt from the slot. Clemmensen then made a big glove save off Kovalchuk's shorthanded attempt to keep his team within reach.
Clarkson had given his team a 2-0 lead 11:03 into the second on a great individual effort in following up a rebound. Zajac took the initial shot from the right circle that hit Clemmensen high on the chest and dropped in front of him. Clarkson then jammed the loose puck into the cage for his 12th goal of the season.
The Panthers received a bit of a scare midway through the second period when forward Shawn Matthias exited after being hit in the face with a deflected puck. Matthias did return to the lineup for the start of the third with several stitches above his left eye.
Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov took a shot from the right circle that appeared to be blocked by Devils forward Ryan Carter before hitting Matthias in the face. He skated off the ice on his own power.
Florida registered their first of seven unanswered shots 10:52 into the first when Drew Shore tipped in a shot that Brodeur neatly denied. Brodeur's best save of the opening period came with 46.7 seconds left when he snared a slap shot from the point off the stick of Kulikov.
Kulikov, who had missed the previous 10 games while recovering from a dislocated shoulder sustained March 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes, was in the lineup filling in for Erik Gudbranson.
Gudbranson, who is questionable to face the New York Islanders on Monday, is out with the flu.
The Devils were credited with two shots in the first, both by Steve Bernier. Kovalchuk also drove a shot from the right circle that rang off the goal post at the 10:18 mark.
|Marek Zidlicky Tripping against Jack Skille|
|Adam Larsson Tripping against Quinton Howden|
|Dmitry Kulikov Roughing against Steve Bernier|
|Colby Robak Cross checking (maj) against Tim Sestito|
|Colby Robak Game misconduct|
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