Ilya Kovalchuk scored a goal and added two assists and Martin Brodeur stopped 18 shots to record the 650th win of his Hall-of-Fame career to lead the New Jersey Devils over the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday night at the Prudential Center.
With the triumph, New Jersey extended its win streak to four straight, while snapping Philadelphia's five-game streak in the process. The Devils tied the Flyers in points with 85, while Philly still holds onto the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference standings by virtue of having scored less shootout wins than NJ. Both teams trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by four points and the Atlantic Division and conference-leading New York Rangers by eight points.
New Jersey opened up the scoring late in the first period. With Braydon Coburn in the sin bin for slashing Devils' defenseman Anton Volchenkov, Patrik Elias deflected David Clarkson's centering pass up over goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky's glove and under the crossbar for his 24th goal of the season with 25 seconds left in the frame and a 1-0 New Jersey lead.
It was the first goal yielded by Philly, who was coming off two consecutive shutouts, in 155:48 of playing time.
Following a scoreless second period, Philadelphia was finally able to get on the board early in the third. Defenseman Matt Carle hit Claude Giroux with a pass at center ice, and the Flyers' leading scorer left a drop pass for Jaromir Jagr. The Czech winger carried wide along the left wing boards and as he was about to skate behind the net, centered to Giroux, who tucked a shot past Brodeur. The tally tied Giroux's career-high for goals in a season with 25, and dead-locked the score at 1-1 just 16 seconds into the final stanza.
The score would not remain knotted for long, and it would be one of the unlikeliest of Devils who would end up notching what proved to be the game-winning goal exactly two minutes later.
Zach Parise flipped a high pass over Coburn at the right point to a waiting Kovalchuk at center ice, sending the winger away on a two-on-one with defenseman Anton Volchenkov. Kovalchuk slid the puck past Nicklas Grossmann and Volchenkov ripped a one-timer past Bobrovsky for only his second goal of the year to give the home team a 2-1 lead.
New Jersey added to their lead midway in the third. Shortly after a Jagr turnover caused Bobrovsky to have to stop Adam Henrique on a breakaway, Kovalchuk picked the puck up and rifled a wrist shot past the Philadelphia goaltender for his 30th goal of the season and give the Devils a 3-1 lead at 8:08.
It was the ninth time Kovalchuk has scored at least 30 goals in an NHL season.
With the Flyers needing to generate offense to cut into the NJ two-goal margin, Zac Rinaldo was assessed a four-minute double minor for high-sticking Ryan Carter with just 7:21 remaining in regulation time, effectively killing any chance of a comeback.
Parise tucked home his 28th goal of the year on the front end of the double minor, closing out the scoring and set the final score of 4-1. It was the second man advantage tally yielded by Philadelphia for the night after they had killed the last 16 they had faced, including giving up none in each of the last six contests (0-14).
Elias and Parise each finished the night with a goal and an assist, and recently-acquired defenseman Marek Zidlicky added two assists.
Brodeur wasn't very busy at all, facing just 19 Philly shots in posting his 25th win of the season, and increasing his NHL-record for most victories to 650.
Bobrovsky lost his fourth consecutive decision to see his record drop to 12-9-1 in place of red-hot Ilya Bryzgalov, who was given the night off after starting the last 11 games.
The clubs face each other one more time this season, Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center in the second half of a home-and-home series.