A Subdued Ilya Kovalchuk Nabs 400th Career Goal in Devils Win

By Steve Palumbo

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Ottawa Senators 1-0 thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk’s 400th career goal and another solid start from back-up Johan Hedberg.

Kovalchuk took a feed from Marek Zidlicky and slapped it past Ottawa goalie Ben Bishop for a power play goal, 31st of the season and of course the 400th in his exceptional NHL career. Kovalchuk took the milestone in stride and without much emotion. After the light when on, Kovalchuk just stood there and refrained from celebrating.

The lack of emotion from Kovalchuk is stark contrast from his typical exuberant outbursts he usually displays after he scores. The 28-year-old reached the milestone in just his 771st career game. He joins Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr as the only active players to reach the 400 mark in less than 900 games.

It was a veteran move on the part of No. 17 to restrain himself, because there hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer about for the Devils recently. New Jersey entered the game having lost three of their last four games, scoring just four goals during that span.

As it turned out Kovalchuk’s lone goal proved to be the game winner thanks to another impressive spot-start for Hedberg. Moose made 34 saves for his fourth shutout of the season in just his 22nd start. The win improved his record to 16-7-2 with a .917 save percentage and 2.27 goal-against average.

Hedberg was forced to make several big saves including stopping a penalty shot in the first period and weathering a late game 5 on 3 penalty kill to preserve the win. This was the second shutout in a row pitched by Hedberg. In his last start on March 2, Hedberg shutout the Washington Capitals 5-0.

The win gave the Devils a little bit of breathing room in the Eastern Conference playoff race. New Jersey now has a solid hold on the sixth seed in the conference. They victory stretched their point lead over the seventh seeded Senators to five points with only eight games remaining for both clubs.

While two points are always nice, the Devils still left a lot to be desired as far as their offensive play. They put 34 shots on goal but still struggle to find the back of the net.

This was the second 1-0 win by the Devils in four games. In fact they have played five 1-0 games this season, winning four of them.

The Devils remain in the top five for goals scored since the All-Star break and have four players with 25 or more goals scored but their recent power outage is cause for alarm. Let’s hope Friday’s date with the Toronto Maple Leafs can help a bit. The Leafs have been outscored 13-2 in their last two games, of course both were lopsided defeats.

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