OTTAWA – Alex Kovalev has often done things in an unconventional fashion throughout his NHL career and he reached a milestone Monday night in a different way.
The 37-year-old Russian scored a power-play goal in the first period of the Ottawa Senators’ 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings to hit the 1,000-point plateau and he did so despite shattering his stick on the play.
“In my museum, when I look for the stick, it’s not going to be that hard to find that 1,000th-point stick,” said Kovalev, who had been held pointless in the previous two games in which he had a chance to achieve the feat.
After a shot from the point by Sergei Gonchar was redirected and wound up on Kovalev’s stick, he fired the puck past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick as his stick snapped in two to become the 76th player in NHL history and second member of the Senators this season to reach the milestone after captain Daniel Alfredsson hit the mark a month earlier.
“It’s definitely good to get that off the back and kind of in a unique way, to break a stick,” he said.
Ottawa stopped a three-game losing slide before a crowd of 18,315 at Scotiabank Place, where the Senators’ last victory over the Kings came on Dec. 2, 2005.
Kovalev, whose tremendous talents have often been clouded by his frustrating inconsistency since he broke in to the league with the New York Rangers in 1992-93, was also in on Jason Spezza’s eventual winner in the third.
“It’s great to see,” Spezza, whose game-winner was a highlight-reel effort in itself, said of Kovalev’s big moment. “He’s been trying real hard and playing real well so it’s nice to see.”
Milan Michalek also scored, while Pascal Leclaire made 28 saves in his first win of the season for Ottawa (10-10-1). The Senators had lost four of the past five games, including three straight on the road last week by a combined score of 17-4 while mourning the death of 14-year-old Daron Richardson, the daughter of Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson.
Before the game, the crowd observed a moment of silence in tribute to her passing and that of longtime NHL coach Pat Burns, who died Friday of cancer.
“It’s good. I just wanted to get that first win, but I think it was good for everybody. We had a rough week last week,” Leclaire said. “We wanted to come back home and start our home stretch on the right way and we played pretty well and we beat a pretty good team.”
It almost didn’t come to be for the Senators.
Ryan Smyth’s apparent tying goal with three seconds to play was waved off by the referees because of a disputed high stick. After a long review, the call stood.
“It was close,” said Smyth, who earlier beat Leclaire on the power play for the Kings’ second goal. “It was pretty tough (to call), but I think it was probably a good goal.
“But we had some chances early on that we should have buried and it shouldn’t have come down to that.”
Anze Kopitar also scored for the Kings (13-7-0), who have lost four of their past five despite outshooting Ottawa 30-19.
Quick finished with 16 stops.
Ottawa forward Chris Neil left the game in the third period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. His status was not immediately known.
With his team slumping, Senators coach Cory Clouston shook up all four forward lines. He also gave struggling defenceman Erik Karlsson, who’s battling the flu as well as his game, the night off and started Leclaire in goal for just the second time in more than a month.
Kovalev gave the fans something to cheer with point No. 1,000 at exactly 10:00 of the first.
It was his 418th goal in 1,249 career games, and he received a standing ovation from the fans.
Kopitar tied it late in the period, beating Leclaire with a quick shot.
The Senators dodged a bullet when defenceman Matt Carkner pulled the net off of its moorings just before Wayne Simmonds could shovel a rebound into an empty net in the final moments of the first period.
The Kings took the lead during a power play in the second when Smyth tipped Justin Williams’ shot past Leclaire, but Michalek made it 2-2 when he converted Alfredsson’s pass from behind the net in the final minute of the period.
That set the stage for Spezza, who took a pass on his off-wing from Kovalev and beat Kings defenceman Matt Greene wide before lifting a shot past Quick at the 11:19 mark of the third and the Senators were able to hang on the rest of the way with the oft-maligned Leclaire looking solid.
“We knew this was a good team, so it was a real big win for us,” Spezza said.
Notes: Senators forwards Neil and Jarkko Ruutu appeared in their 600th NHL games while Milan Michalek played his 400th on Monday. … Ottawa plays host to the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. … The Kings are in Montreal to face the Canadiens that night. … Rookie centre Brayden Schenn and defenceman Jake Muzzin were scratched from Los Angeles’s lineup.