New Jersey Devils Flashback: December 26, 2011 vs. Carolina Hurricanes

By Steve Palumbo
James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE

Not every moment in 2011-12 was unforgettable for the New Jersey Devils, as evidenced by a late December showdown with the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

Entering the game, the story line centered around former-Devils coach John Maclean facing his old team as an assistant with the Hurricanes. By night’s end, it was Ilya Kovalchuk that received all the attention and for all the wrong reasons.

The Hurricanes used a two-goal second period to build a 3-0 lead before hanging on for a 4-2 win over its Garden State rivals. Goat of the night clearly belonged to Kovalchuk, whose careless blunders directly resulted in two of Carolina’s four goals.

While manning his usual spot at the point on the New Jersey power play, Kovalchuk coughed up the puck to Hurricanes forward Brandon Sutter resulting in a shorthanded goal. It was an NHL worst eleventh shorty given up by the Devils in their first 35 games and the second time Sutter burned them on the penalty kill.

To make matters worse,  Kovalchuk’s teammates fought back to cut the Hurricanes lead to 3-2, but the Russian “Keystone Cop” capped off his miserable night by scoring into his own net – thus ending the Devils late rally.

With the Devils trailing 3-2 and Johan Hedberg on the bench for the extra attacker, Kovalchuk threw an errant puck to the point where he thought Adam Henrique was positioned.  To his dismay, Henrique was not there and the puck slid down the ice into the vacated net. Since Carolina goalie Cam Ward was the last Hurricane to touch the puck, he was awarded the goal; the first of his career.

This was not the game I was hoping for from Santa. I was already feeling ill from eating a gluttony of food on Christmas Day and this loss made my already shaky stomach even worse. But, in hindsight it was this type of game and subsequent loss early on that essentially laid the foundation for the Devils playoff success. New Jersey proved once again, it’s not how you start the race, but how you finish.

Can I also add that I love December hockey games? Let’s hope we have plenty of them in 2012. #ENDTHELOCKOUT

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