NEWARK, N.J. – Ilya Kovalchuk brought the Devils’ fans out of their seats again.
Only this time, the New Jersey faithful were cheering instead of booing the Russian star.
Kovalchuk scored on a power play at 3:27 of overtime—New Jersey’s slumping US$100 million man’s first goal in seven games—to give the Devils their first home victory of the year, 4-3 over Edmonton on Friday night.
“Yeah, that’s nice. Better than last game. So I appreciate that,” Kovalchuk said. “Especially after the last game, you just have to smile and go through it.”
In that last game, Kovalchuk lost control of the puck about 20 feet from goalie Jhonas Enroth on the final attempt in a shootout in the Devils’ 5-4 home loss to Buffalo on Wednesday night. After that loss, Kovalchuk was bent over at the waist, his hands clutching his knees, while boos rained down.
Mattias Tedenby and Alexander Vasyunov scored their first NHL goals, Brian Rolston also connected in regulation, and Martin Brodeur made 21 saves for the Devils. Colin Fraser scored twice, Sam Gagner added a goal, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 35 shots for Edmonton, 4-26-3 on the road since mid-December of last year.
New Jersey, 1-5-2 at home, improved to 5-10-2—28th in the 30-team league with 12 points. At 4-8-3, Edmonton is tied for last with the New York Islanders with 11 points.
“We’ve been working hard and it’s nice to get that first home win,” Devils first-year coach John MacLean said. “It’s great that we won but we have some work to do. We have some things we have to clean up. We’ll take the positives tonight and tomorrow we’ll look at it and get ready for Monday.”
The Oilers led 2-1 at the end of the first period on the strength of Fraser’s first two goals of the season. He opened the scoring at 4:34 by stuffing a puck under Brodeur while standing alongside the goal-line.
Fraser made it 2-0 5:16 later when he ripped a screened shot past Brodeur.
“We’re looking for building blocks all over the place. Certainly by coming into a foreign rink, in most cases for the first time for some of these guys, we did fine,” Oilers coach Tom Renney said. “We lost the hockey game. Nobody’s happy about that and I’m not going to pretend that I am.”
Vasyunov cut the deficit in half with 4:17 left in the first, snapping a one-timer from the low slot that Dubnyk had no shot to stop. Gagner pushed the Edmonton advantage to 3-1 5:11 into the second period off a rebound while three Oilers surrounded Brodeur.
Rolston scored his first goal of the season with 3:08 remaining in the second to make it 3-2. Tedenby tied it when he tipped Andy Greene’s power-play point shot with nine minutes left in the third.
“A couple young fellas get their first NHL goals, which is nice to see,” MacLean said about Vasyunov and Tedenby. “They battled through it.”
NOTES: New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner missed the game after going headfirst into the boards during the Devils’ loss to Buffalo on Tuesday night. MacLean said he’s “not sure” if Langenbrunner will play in Boston on Monday night. “We’ll have to see how he feels tomorrow. He was sore today. We’ll see how it responds tomorrow,” said MacLean. … Brodeur returned after missing New Jersey two games because of a bruised elbow. … Rolston played for the first time since Oct. 9. He was sidelined by a sports hernia. “Getting guys back is helping. Especially those veteran defence and Marty,” Kovalchuk said. “(We have) some great young kids (who) play very hard, (but) when the team is struggling, you need that experience.” … The Oilers game in New York on Sunday marks Renney’s return to Madison Square Garden. Renney was fired with 21 games remaining in the 2008-09 New York Rangers’ season after compiling a 164-137-46 record in 327 games. The Rangers qualified for the playoffs in his three full seasons behind the bench. “It’s a temple of hockey, there’s no question about that, and entertainment for that matter,” Renney said. “Our young guys should be excited about going in there. It’s no different than playing your first NHL game. What we want them to do is go in and enjoy it; drink it up and have a hell of a time. For myself, it’s all about the Edmonton Oilers and trying to go in there and steal two points.”