All the animosity toward Ilya Kovalchuk seems to be gone now.
Three games into the 2013 season, and some three weeks after rumors circled that Kovalchuk wouldn’t return to the New Jersey Devils, the high-flying Russian received praise and cheers from a sold out crowd at Prudential Center.
That’s because Kovalchuk, who scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday in a penalty shot, emphatically put the Devils at a 3-0-0 start, burying home an overtime goal against the Washington Capitals (0-3-1), Friday night. The Devils squandered a 2-0 lead late in the third period, but Kovalchuk finished with job with 20.5 seconds left in the extra session.
The win moves the Devils into first place in the Atlantic division and one of only five teams in the NHL that have not lost a game in 2013.
The Devils took a 2-0 lead over the first two periods on goals from Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias, but they allowed the win-less Capitals to climb back into the game in the final period after taking five penalties in a six-minute span. Washington had back-to-back five-on-three chances, scoring on one of them to draw within a goal on Mike Ribeiro‘s goal outside the crease.
The Capitals tied the game late in the third period when New Jersey failed to clear the zone, and the puck landed on defensemen Mike Green‘s stick. Green blasted a shot through traffic that beat Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur to tie the game.
The Devils dominated overtime, due in large part to a power play that generated a ton of chances without scoring a goal before Kovalchuk ended the game in the final minute.
Ribeiro’s goal ended Brodeur’s goal-less streak at 125:33. The last goal he had given up before that was midway through the third period against the New York Islanders on opening night.
Brodeur kept the Devils in the game early, making several big saves, including two separate two-on-one chances in the second period for the Capitals.
The Devils will look to push their winning streak to four games on Sunday night, when they hit the road to take on the Montreal Canadiens.