Take a ride aboard ‘The Poni Express’ and you might come away with one of the most iconic goals in New Jersey Devils history.
The New Jersey Devils acquired Alexei Ponikarovsky from the Carolina Hurricanes in the middle of the 2011-12 season. ‘Poni’ would quickly establish himself as one of the Devils’ most important wingers at both ends of the ice. After posting seven goals and eight assists through his first 49 games with Carolina, Ponikarovsky added another seven goals and 11 assists in just 33 games with New Jersey prior to the start of the postseason.
Alexei Ponikarovsky couldn’t find his shooting gloves in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs with just one goal in 24 games, but the goal he scored gave the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 of that series. Not too long after, he helped create another overtime goal, one that will live in New Jersey Devils infamy.
New Jersey Devils fans will always remember Alexei Ponikarovsky as the guy who threw a puck on net in the overtime period of Game Six against the New York Rangers. One Adam Henrique poke later, the roof was blown off of Prudential Center, and the Devils were headed to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Ponikarovsky dished out three more assists in Games 4, 5, and 6 against the Los Angeles Kings, but the Devils were finally eliminated in the latter after doing enough dancing to avoid a sweep.
The New Jersey Devils could not retain Ponikarovsky that offseason, and the hulking Ukrainian winger instead signed with the Winnipeg Jets. After recording only two goals – his only two points in 12 games, the Devils traded for him again. In his second stint in Red and Black he scored two goals and five assists.
Ponikarovsky would leave the NHL at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season and spent the next five seasons with SKA St. Petersburg and Kunlun Red Star of the KHL. With SKA, Ponikarovsky met back up with linemate Ilya Kovalchuk, who also bounced from New Jersey that year.
Alexei Ponikarovsky has been out of hockey since 2018, and his recent whereabouts are unclear.