An Ilya Kovalchuk overtime goal is always good for what ails the New Jersey Devils. And what ailed the Devils at Prudential Center Friday night against the Washington Capitals was a lack of discipline that nearly sent them to their first defeat of the season.
Carrying a 2-0 lead in the latter stages of the game against the winless Caps, New Jersey defenseman Andy Greene was called for tripping at 11:11. That was compounded by a too many men on the ice call at 11:52 that was further compounded by a bench minor for abuse of the officials, also at 11:52
That led to Mike Ribeiro's power-play goal at 12:45 of the third that washed away Martin Brodeur's shutout. Mike Green forced overtime with an unassisted goal at 17:04.
“Really, the guys bailed me out,” coach Pete DeBoer told reporters after the 3-2 win. “We had two too many men and a bench minor, so I think I’m leading the team in penalty minutes.”
Despite the letdown of blowing the lead, the Devils dominated overtime, with Kovalchuk scoring the winner at 4:39 of OT.
The Devils are now 3-0-0 on the season, while the Capitals dropped to 0-3-1.
Defenseman Marek Zidlicky set up the winner with a pass to Kovalchuk in the left circle. His shot beat Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth high on the short side.
“I knew that (Neuvirth) was going to take low then if he slides (over), I just need to get it up,” Kovalchuk said. “I hope he was a little tired. That’s why he didn’t save it.”
For Kovalchuk, it was the 14th OT goal of his career.
“It’s hard,” Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record about Kovalchuk's shot. “As a goalie, you’re almost, ‘All right, good. You’re so far out.’ You just want to make sure he doesn’t bank it off of you, not shoot it right in like he did. It’s impressive. I think Kovy and a lot of the Russian players do have a certain curve that when they shoot the puck, the puck kind of goes up on edge. I guarantee you if you look at slo-mo that puck went in this way (on edge). It didn’t go in this way (flat).”
But for New Jersey, the important thing is it went in, preserving a solid start to the season with games coming up against against Montreal (Sunday) and Boston (Tuesday), both on the road.
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