Devils Vs. Senators: Ilya Kovalchuk Breaks Slump With 400th Goal

Mar 20, 2012; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Ben Bishop (30) makes a save in the first period against the New Jersey Devils at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-US PRESSWIRE

Ben Bishop and Johan Hedberg dueled back-and-forth in net, but it would be Ilya Kovalchuk's 400th career goal that made the difference between them.

The matchup between the Devils and Senators was expected to be a celebration for Jason Spezza, as the franchise center would be participating in his 600th NHL game.

Unfortunately, the star forward came down with an illness, taking the morning skate before being ruled out early in the afternoon.

The Devils, on the other hand, had a more metaphorical illness. Sliding into a two-game losing streak after their bloody battle with the Rangers on Monday evening, the team was looking for a way to get themselves back in the win column. One of the keys to that game plan? Ilya Kovalchuk, who had been held pointless in five straight games.

Giving Johan Hedberg a chance to start while Ben Bishop would take the Ottawa net for the eighth straight game, the matchup was a chess match of shot blocking, defensive plays, and each team waiting for the other to make a mistake.

With each team starting slow, the Senators applied the majority of pressure early, particularly with a first line of Daniel Alfredsson, Kyle Turris, and Milan Michalek. Hedberg, however, was game for the Senators' efforts despite giving up several dangerous rebounds. Bishop was equally compenent, leaving the game scoreless until late in the second period.

A kneeing call on Senators' checking center Zenon Konopka was the catalyst, setting the Devils up for their second power play of the night. Despite several missed passes, the Devils moved the puck back to Kovalchuk at the point, and the sniper unloaded a blast that went past Bishop high on his glove side and into the net for his 400th career goal.

The goal ended up being the game-winner despite several late rallies and a brief five-on-three advantage for the Senators in the final minutes of play.

The shutout is Hedberg's fourth this season and second in his last three starts, while Bishop's run in Ottawa continues with a 1.95 GAA and .925 save percentage since his trade from St. Louis.

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