Posted April 07, 2012 on AP on Fox
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Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice, Stephen Gionta broke a third-period tie with his first NHL goal and the New Jersey Devils beat the Ottawa Senators 4-2 on Saturday to close the regular season with a six-game winning streak. Petr Sykora also scored, and Martin Brodeur made 31 saves for the Devils, who will be the No. 6 seed in Eastern Conference for the postseason. They will face Florida or Washington in the opening round. Matt Gilroy and Jim O'Brien scored for Ottawa, which will be the seventh or eighth seed in conference, facing the New York Rangers or Boston. Gionta, recalled from Albany on Friday, gave the Devils the lead for good, putting in the rebound of Alexei Ponikarovsky's shot with 9:05 to play. Kovalchuk iced the game with an empty-net goal for the Devils, who missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1996. Craig Anderson made 30 saves for Ottawa. Brodeur made the lead stand up by stopping 13 shots in the final 20 minutes, including a good chance in close by Colin Greening with 2:31 to go. The Devils twice fought back from one-goal deficits. Sykora tied it at 2 with his second goal in two games and 21st of the season with 2:17 left in the second period. The tally came on a rare 5-on-1 power-play rush that Kovalchuk started with a pass to Marek Zidlicky. Sykora, Dainius Zubrus and Adam Henrique got the next three touches on the puck before Sykora tapped Henrique's pass into an open net. O'Brien gave Ottawa a 2-1 lead with 6:01 left in the period. He took a cross-ice pass from Erik Condra and sent a shot off Brodeur's arm into the net for his third career goal. Gilroy, who also got an assist on O'Brien's goal, gave Ottawa its initial lead when Brodeur gave up a bad goal. Gilroy took a weak backhander from along the left boards and the 39-year-old goalie intended to kick the puck back into the corner. His skate seemed to catch in the ice when he kicked at the bouncing puck and it embarrassingly slide into the net at 10:59 of the opening period. Kovalchuk tied it at 1 with a blast from the dot in the right circle at 15:26 on a power play. He has 37 goals, 25 since Jan. 1. NOTES: Gionta skated on the Devils' fourth line with Ryan Carter and Cam Janssen. ....Devils rookie D Adam Larsson, the fourth pick overall in the draft, returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last five games. ...Senators RW Chris Neil didn't make the trip after being hurt in a fall in practice. Kaspars Daugavins replaced him in the lineup.
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