Game 43 Recap: Kovy, Hedberg leads Devils to OT victory
Following a performance that he wasn’t proud of, Johan Hedberg bounced back in a big way and the Devils got back in the win column with a 2-1 overtime win in Edmonton. It wasn’t the best performance of the season by the team, but tonight, Hedberg’s goaltending kept the Devils in the game and gave them a chance to win it in overtime. As they did last night, the Devils got off to a slow start. They only managed four shots on Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, while allowing nine shots on Hedberg, but nobody scored in a fairly uneventful first period. The Devils struggled with puck possession and with turnovers in the first period, but they survived it, which they obviously failed to last night in Calgary. Hedberg’s two biggest saves probably came on Taylor Hall, who used his incredible speed all night to generate scoring chances.
The Devils started to heat up in the second period. They started to generate better scoring chances, but a pair of minor penalties, first by Zach Parise, followed by David Clarkson’s interference minor, left the Devils shorthanded. But as they have all season, the Devils turned a shorthanded situation into a positive part of the game. While the Oilers tried to send the puck across the point, and Ilya Kovalchuk intercepted the pass and took off on a breakaway. He snapped the puck past Khabibulin glove-side and gave the Devils a 1-0 lead. The goal was Kovy’s team-leading 17th of the season, his second shorthanded goal of the season and as a Devil, and it was a lead the Devils would hold on to for most of the game. The Devils kept pressing in the second period, including a strong rush by Mattias Tedenby, despite Tedenby not registering a shot on goal, but the Oilers held the Devils to a 1-0 lead.
The Devils continued to put pressure on the Oilers through the early minutes of the third period, but the Devils once again got into some penalty trouble. At 8:32 of the third period, the Devils surrendered a power play goal the Edmonton. Ales Hemsky tied the game for the Oilers, and they also started to warm up and keep the Devils trapped in their own end. Pete DeBoer eventually used his timeout after an icing call, and it may have saved the Devils in this game. The two teams exchanged chances late in the third period. The Devils’ best chance late came as Ilya Kovalchuk nearly deflected a puck past Khabibulin. Kovy had six shots on net today, and currently sits sixth in the NHL with nearly 160 shots on goal.
Once the game went to overtime, the Devils picked up their 49th point of the season, which tied them with the Toronto Maple Leafs for sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Devils, who went on a power play late in the third period, carried the momentum into overtime. Ilya Kovalchuk one-timed Kurtis Foster’s feed, and it rebounded to Patrik Elias, who centered Zach Parise for the tap-in. The Devils won it on a power play goal, and picked up their 50th point, so they pass Toronto and sit all alone sixth in the conference, just two points behind Ottawa for fifth. The Devils finish their road trip Saturday afternoon in Winnipeg before a long homestand begins.
Some game notes: Kovalchuk’s shorthanded goal was his second in the last four games and the team’s fourth straight game with a shorthanded goal. Parise’s power play goal was the third straight game in which the Devils scored a power play goal and Parise’s first game-winning goal this season. Kovalchuk also registered his fourth straight multi-point game and is the only Devil who is averaging a point per game this season: 38 points in 38 games. The Devils blocked 26 Oilers shots tonight. Parise, Kovalchuk and Adam Henrique have now combined for 21 points over the last four games. The last time the Devils played the Oilers, last fall in New Jersey, it was Kovalchuk who won it in overtime on the power play. Tonight, it was Parise’s turn for a game-winning power play overtime goal.
It was a big win for the Devils tonight. Even though they didn’t play their best game, they got the two points. If they can win on Saturday, they’ll have gone 3-1 on the road trip and 5-1 since the loss to the Bruins.