Kovalchuk keys Devils’ victory over Penguins

Kovalchuk keys Devils’ victory over Penguins

NEW JERSEY - Reuters
Kovalchuk keys Devils’ victory over Penguins

Russia’s Ilya Kovalchuk (L) produces one goal and an assist contributing to the New Jersey Devils’ 3-1 National Hockey League victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. AFP photo

Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a first-period penalty shot and assisted on David Clarkson’s goal minutes later as the New Jersey Devils defeated the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in an Eastern Conference matchup on Dec. 31.

Kovalchuk’s penalty shot, after Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik was penalised for covering the puck in the crease, gave the Devils a 1-0 lead 14 minutes into the first before Clarkson made it 2-0 on a power play toward the end of the first period.

The Russian forward’s goal enabled him to even the score with Penguins’ netminder Marc-Andre Fleury who had saved one of his penalty shot attempts in March 2010.

“It was nice,” Kovalchuk told reporters. “A little rematch. It’s nice when the coach trusts you and when you produce.

“It was the new year in Russia right when we started,” Kovalchuk said. “And they showed the game in Russia live, so it was good for everybody.”

Zach Parise had taken both of New Jersey’s previous penalty shots this season, scoring once.
But coach Peter DeBoer, at the encouragement of assistant Adam Oates, decided to give Kovalchuk the opportunity.

“He thrives in those situations,” DeBoer said.

Martin Brodeur was also with 29 saves as the Devils won for the ninth time in 12 games.