Page last updated on Mon Dec 22 14:07:35 EST 2014
02/07/2013 10:48 PM EST
Kovalchuk leads surging Devils past Lightning 4-2

AP Sports Writer

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.

New Jersey, which came in having killed off 15 straight
penalties, was 4 for 4 on the penalty kill, with Kovalchuk
tallying after the Devils got an unsportsmanlike penalty when
someone - not DeBoer - said something that referee Chris Rooney
didn't appreciate.

"It's tough to give up one off the power play but we didn't take
advantage on the power play for ourselves," said Lightning
leading scorer Steven Stamkos, who missed an open net in the
third period on a rebound with his team down a goal.

Brodeur made the mistake that allowed Tampa Bay to tie the score
1-all a little more than 4 minutes earlier. Usually an
outstanding puckhandler, he misplayed a pass from the crease off
the sideboards. Martin St. Louis intercepted the pass and found
Thompson between the circles for a shot into the top of the net.

Henrique, who missed the first five games of the season while
recovering from thumb surgery, had put New Jersey ahead earlier
in the period thanks to a mistake by Lindback. The 6-foot-6
goalie thought he had caught a shot from the point by defenseman
Anton Volchenkov. The puck, however, slipped out of his glove
and Henrique pounced on the loose puck and backhanded it into
the net for his third goal in five games.

Greene scored with 4:48 to go with the Devils on a two-man
advantage, and Elias capped his second straight three-point
night seconds later with another goal with a two-man advantage.

"I didn't see any penalties," Boucher said. "I didn't see
anything. I just watched the video again and didn't see
anything. I guess I'll have to look at it another 20 times."

Carle scored with the Lightning down three goals.

Before the game, the Devils decided to play first-round draft
pick Stefan Matteau, marking his sixth game of the regular
season. The decision means that the first year of his contract
kicks in for this lockout-shortened 48-game season. The
18-year-old can still be sent down to play junior hockey, but
his entry level contract is now active.

NOTES: With blizzard advisories in the northeast, the Lightning
are heading to Boston for a game on Saturday. The Devils will
play at home against the Penguins. ... Devils LW Dainius Zubrus
was scratched with an upper body injury sustained Tuesday
against the Rangers. ... Brodeur played in his 1,199th NHL game.
... The crowd of 14,802 was the Devils' first non-sellout in
five home games.

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