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Kovalchuk’s penalty shot sparks the Devils past Penguins

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Associated Press


Before his team took the ice to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk spoke to head coach Peter DeBoer about the possibility of taking a penalty shot.

“For some reason, we were talking about it before the game,” Kovalchuk said. “I really don’t know why.

“But Pete said that if there was a penalty shot in the game, I would be the one to take it and I told him I’d get it.”

He did.

Kovalchuk scored on a penalty shot in the first period and had two assists, Martin Brodeur made several brilliant stops among his 29 saves and the Devils beat the Penguins 3-1.

Zach Parise scored an empty-net goal with 49.5 seconds left as the Devils ended a four-game winless skid against Pittsburgh and won for the ninth time in 12 games overall.

The Penguins lost their second straight game after a four-game win streak.

The 39-year-old Brodeur stopped Matt Cooke with a spectacular glove save to preserve the lead with about 4 minutes to go. It was his 11th win of the season, third straight and his record 636th victory of his career. It was also his 43rd win in 75 games against Pittsburgh.

“It was a good win against a team with a lot of firepower,” Brodeur said. “I know I might feel good now, but I’m going to feel it later on.

“I think the penalty shot got us going and we played with the lead and played under control. I think as a unit, we all feel a lot more comfortable now.”

Kovalchuk praised the veteran goalie.

“I said that he was definitely our first star tonight,” said Kovalchuk, who received the top star honor from the media. “He made saves on breakaways, two-on-ones, everything. He played like he was 25 again. “

Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias each had assists on Parise’s 13th goal of the season, giving both players two assists for the game.

Chris Kunitz scored a third-period goal for the Penguins. Marc Andre-Fleury made 18 saves in goal for Pittsburgh.

The Devils were awarded a penalty shot with five minutes left in the first period after a scramble in front.

Rookie defenseman Adam Larsson first fired a shot that hit the right post and Patrik Elias tried to poke home the rebound, but Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik fell on the loose puck in the crease, awarding a penalty shot to the Devils.

Kovalchuk took the puck in on Fleury and went straight on with a wrist shot that went through Fleury’s pads for the 1-0 lead. It was Kovalchuk’s 12th goal of the season and the second time he converted on a penalty shot in three attempts in his career.

Tyler Kennedy had the best scoring chance in the second period, when the Penguins center skated in on Brodeur on a breakaway. But Brodeur stopped Kennedy with a diving kick save with 8:03 remaining. The Penguins were the aggressors in the second period, but Brodeur stopped all 12 shots he faced.

“I felt like I had him beat, but he cut off the angle a little and that threw me off just a bit,” Kennedy said. “He’s a great goalie and that was a great save by him.”