Kovalchuk leads surging Devils past Lightning 4-2
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer never worries when Ilya Kovalchuk goes into a goal-scoring drought.
Kovalchuk gets his chances every game, and sooner or later the puck starts going in the net.
Kovalchuk snapped a six-game drought with a short-handed goal late in the second period and the Devils won their third straight game with a 4-2 victory over the slumping Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
"I wasn't worried about Kovy, it's just a matter of time with him," DeBoer said. "Kovy could have had four goals tonight had he not been trying to set everyone up. But that's him and all the guys in the room appreciate what he is about."
The go-ahead goal was a perfect shot. Kovalchuk intercepted a pass by defenseman Sami Salo near the Devils blue line and skated into the Lightning zone on a 2-on-1 with Travis Zajac. The Russian used his center as a decoy and snapped a shot from the dot in the left circle low into the corner of the net against a defenseless Anders Lindback at 17:34.
"Kovy is Kovy and he loves to score goals," said Martin Brodeur, who had a relatively easy night facing 19 shots. "He gets his share. Big-time goal scorers get big goals. Hopefully, he'll be able to celebrate a little bit more the next time."
Kovalchuk finished the game with a team-high five shots on goal and only some good saves by Lindback prevented him from scoring more than his third goal of the season and second short-handed.
"I'll take that. Hopefully I'll do better," Kovalchuk said.
Andy Greene and Patrik Elias iced the game with power-play goals 14 seconds apart with less than 5 minutes to play as the Devils (6-1-3) sent the Lightning to their third consecutive loss. Elias also had two assists, while Adam Henrique scored for the second game in a row.
"We have to respect their offense, so we had to keep it simple," said Elias, who has six points in the last two games. "They have a lot of firepower and score a lot, so to give ourselves a chance, we had to play tighter defensively. They came in going through a good streak scoring goals. They got chances, but we took advantage of our chances. It's good to have a lot of people chipping in."
Nate Thompson and Matthew Carle scored for the Lightning, who have five goals during their losing streak. Tampa Bay scored 37 times in starting the season 6-1.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher thought his team played well, except on the power play.
"We don't seem to capitalize on our chances and it has been hurting us the last three games," he said.