OTTAWA – The goal was exciting, but the celebration was not.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 400th career goal, and it turned out to be the game’s only offence as the New Jersey Devils beat the Ottawa Senators 1-0 Tuesday night.
While working the point on the power play, Kovalchuk took a pass from defenceman Marek Zidlicky and blasted a slapshot past Ben Bishop in the Ottawa goal at 17:20 of the second period.
Without even raising his arms, Kovalchuk then waited at the blue-line for his teammates to come to him for a subdued celebration.
“It wasn’t much of a celebration, so hopefully when I score my 500th it will be a little more exciting,” Kovalchuk said with a chuckle in his only display of emotion the whole night.
“I tried to not think about it and that’s when it’s going to go in. When you try to much you’ll get a bad bounce or hit the post or something. It doesn’t really matter to me though because the only important hockey is in front of us in April.”
Kovalchuk has 376 assists to go along with his 400 goals in 771 regular-season games, 694 of which were with the Atlanta Thrashers.
Subbing in for Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg made 34 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. He saved a first-period penalty shot by Erik Condra, who was tripped from behind on a breakaway by Devils defenceman Anton Volchenkov.
“It’s always exciting when you score and especially because it was a big game for us, but (Hedberg) was outstanding and he’s the reason why we won,” Kovalchuk said.
“I’ve never see anyone work harder than this guy in practice. Every day he shows up and when he gets a chance he’s plays unbelievable. We’ve got two great goalies and we’re very confident in both of them.”
Bishop made 33 saves and was certainly deserving of a victory for his effort.
The Senators were unable to capitalize on two late power plays, including a five-on-three for nearly half a minute.
The Devils had a couple of early chances in the first period but Bishop turned them aside. The rest of the period was rather uneventful except for the penalty shot and a final-minute flurry by the Senators.
It was the second 1-0 win by the Devils in the past four games and their fourth of the season. They’ve also lost a 1-0 game this season.
“They like to trap it up and make it a difficult game. We just weren’t able to get one past Hedberg,” Senators forward Nick Foligno said.
“It was a funny game. We weren’t able to get too many power plays early on and then we got some late but weren’t able to generate much offence.”
The Senators (37-27-10) had a chance to pull to within a point of the Devils (42-27-5) for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but now are five back with just eight games left for each club.
New Jersey trails the Philadelphia Flyers by three points. The Flyers, fifth in the conference, fell 2-1 to the Florida panthers Tuesday.
Notes: The game Tuesday was the third of four regular-season meetings between the two clubs. The Senators lost 5-4 in a shootout Dec 8 at New Jersey but were able to rebound with a 3-2 OT win at home Jan. 2. The Devils host the final meeting between the two on April 7…Jason Spezza needs one more game to reach 600 for his career, all with the Senators…In 63 career starts against the Senators, Devils G Martin Brodeur has been pulled just twice…Spezza, Matt Carkner and Kaspars Daugavins were scratches for the Senators Tuesday while Cam Janssen and Matt Taormina sat out for the Devils…