Going from nine scoreless games to a goal to break the drought and a hat trick to follow in the next match, Ilya Kovalchuk remains just one goal away from reaching 30 goals for the ninth time in his ten year NHL career. He came up a goal short of 30 in his rookie year, but since then has consecutively scored 30 goals or more every season.
“I got here to score goals,” Kovalchuk said. “To make plays for my team, and to try to make my team win. That’s why I’m here.”
His hat trick against the Islanders came against his fellow Russian buddy, Evgeni Nabokov.
“I know him real well,” Kovalchuk said with a smirk on his face. “I think he made a couple of great saves on me too…I don’t know if he’s going to talk to me after the game. We’ll see.”
In the first period, Kovalchuk put up the first goal of the game at 8:07 not off the first try, but after the second try after sending in a rebound that bounced off of Nabokov. He captured his second goal at 3:33 in the second stanza to give the Devils a two-goal lead over the Islanders.
“It’s always nice to score early,” Kovalchuk said. “It gives you a little extra energy.”
Islanders’ Andrew MacDonald caught Martin Brodeur in an awkward moment and was able to score on him at 16:21 to give New York their lone goal of the game.
“It’s kind of my fault, a little bit,” Brodeur said of missing the save. “I thought that MacDonald was going to just turn and go up the ice, or go up the board. I was sitting there. I could have got up. I kind of just look at him. He looked at me. I was like, ‘oh, I’m in trouble now.’ It’s like a deer in the headlights. I knew what he was going to do and I couldn’t get out of the way. So that’s an unfortunate bounce there. I’ll be smarter next time.
“You learn even at 39 you’re still learning,” Brodeur added laughing.
Patrik Elias continued the Devils’ scoring streak at 7:05 in the final period; and Kovalchuk followed at 8:09 for the hat trick. This hat trick marked his second of the season (his last hat trick was tallied on 2/14/12). The last time a New Jersey Devil scored two hat tricks in one season was Elias back in 2001-02. This hat trick marked Kovalchuk’s 13th of his career.
Zach Parise earned his 400th career point on the assist from Kovalchuk’s third goal.
David Clarkson rounded out the scoring at 15:59 to give the Devils a final score of 5-1.
Even though the goal scorers highlight the headlines, not all important playmakers are the ones scoring goals out on the ice. Even with Kovalchuk going scoreless for nine games, he was still playing some of his best hockey out on the ice to generate plays.
He praised Marek Zidlicky’s work effort out on the ice after the game. The Devils’ new addition to the roster at trade deadline has been proving fruitful. Kovalchuk commented that his new teammate’s plays are accurate each time.
“He [sent a] pass [to] me twice exactly the same,” he said of Zidlicky.
He went on to talk about how the defenseman has been effective, especially under pressure. He still makes precise and accurate plays with his new teammates. That, in itself, means that this former Wild needed no time to adjust to the Devils’ style.
“It takes me a little longer,” Kovalchuk said of fitting into the Devils when he first came to the team. “He looks like he played a lot with the Devils already. I’m sure it helps that we’ve got some good guys on our team already like [Elias] and [Petr Sykora] and he’s played with them before. He lives with Patrik. That helps with digesting for sure.”
The Devils play back-to-back games this weekend against Atlantic rival teams. On Saturday, they head to Long Island for their third matchup of the week against the Islanders. On Sunday, they will host the Philadelphia Flyers.