Found May 04, 2012 on Fox Sports:
New-jersey-devils-new-york
As the saying goes, it's playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back, that's most crucial for success in the NHL playoffs. But in the case of the New Jersey Devils, it seems the additional letter on the front -- the "C" or "A" stitched into the upper left corner, just above the heart -- means a little something extra, too. All postseason, head coach Pete DeBoer has pleaded for his leaders to embrace the spotlight, expressing on multiple occasions the importance of his star players being just that. On Thursday, he got what he asked for, and in a big way. New Jersey got a goal each from captain Zach Parise and alternate captains Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias, with Kovalchuk also adding two assists -- the second coming on Alexi Ponikarovsky's game-winning goal in overtime -- as the Devils grabbed a 4-3 win over the Flyers and took a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal. "Your best players have to be your best players," DeBoer said after the home ice-preserving win, repeating his now-familiar mantra. "You get goals tonight from Parise, Elias and Kovalchuk; that's the right formula this time of year." There was some concern heading into Game 3, however, that the formula might be thrown off for the second straight game by the absence of the former Atlanta Thrashers first overall pick Kovalchuk. After missing Game 2 with what was dubiously termed a "lower body injury" -- a herniated disk, according to reports -- his return for the rest of the series was in doubt. But at Thursday's morning skate, he was declared healthy enough to play -- Kovalchuk called it "magic" on the part of the doctors and training staff -- and he was immediately thrust back into the lineup. "It can't do anything but help," DeBoer told reporters just hours before the game, sounding almost prophetic in hindsight. "For me, if he is healthy to go, he's healthy to go. It's not healthy with an asterisk. We aren't going to limit him in ice time or anything. If he's in, it's full in." And just as his coach predicted, Kovalchuk -- presumably playing through the kind of pain that would render lesser men couch-bound -- started the game on a line with Ponikarovsky and Travis Zajac and didn't take long to get in on the action. The star left-winger played a part in both of the Devils' first-period goals, as they built off the momentum of four third-period scores in Game 2 and took an early 2-1 lead in Game 3. "When you're around him every day, you realize what he's capable of," DeBoer said. "He was very motivated to get back in and not disrupt the lineup ... and I knew he was going to have a positive effect on the game." It was actually Philadelphia that took an early 1-0 lead just 6:08 into the game on Brayden Schenn's power-play score. But the Flyers' advantage was short-lived, as New Jersey tied things up on a power-play goal of their own 6:25 later. The equalizer came on an Elias slap shot set up by Kovalchuk and Marek Zidlicky just 24 seconds into the man-advantage. It was the first score since Game 3 of the first-round series against Florida for the Elias, the Devils career leader in goals, a much-needed kickstart for the veteran in his 16th season and 14th postseason with the team. "He's a scorer, he's a point producer and when you're in those shoes, that's what you want to do and it can be frustrating when the puck's not going in," Parise said. "He looked a little relieved when we got that one in the first period, and we definitely need him if we want to keep winning." Then before the PA announcer could call out the Elias goal, the Devils scored again, as Kovalchuk beat fellow Russian Ilya Bryzgalov 20 seconds later give New Jersey a 2-1 edge with 7:07 left in the first. "I just want to go there and fill into the lineup and do the right thing, be simple and be myself," Kovalchuk said of his return to the team. "You miss a game and you want to come back and contribute right away, so it was nice." A goal by Philly defenseman Matt Carle tied the game up at 2-2 early in the second. The teams then went scoreless until the 12:31 mark of the third when Parise gave the Devils a 3-2 lead on a beautiful wraparound number he forced past Bryzgalov's left pad. It was the fourth goal of the postseason for Parise, who was assisted on the play by Elias, and it gave an undeniable jolt to the Devils bench -- the kind you'd expect to be sparked by a veteran captain with Parise's aplomb. "When the guy wearing your 'C' is the hardest working guy maybe in the league, he drags other guys with him," DeBoer said. "The nice thing for us is we've got willing participants in our dressing room who are willing to follow that." Then in overtime it all came full circle, as Kovalchuk, balky back and all, came through once again, this time assisting on Ponikarovsky's game-winner, catching the Flyers in a line change and delivering a perfect pass to set up the goal. "It's a world-class play," DeBoer said. "Not many guys have the poise to hold the puck there, recognize a line change on the other team and spring somebody. There's only a handful of guys in the league that make that play, and we're fortunate to have one on our team." But really, Kovalchuk is just one of three indispensable stars on the New Jersey roster. Every time the Devils lit the lamp Thursday, a captain or alternate captain had a hand in it, and it came as no surprise to anyone you asked. "Good players will make good plays at the right time of the game," said goalie Martin Brodeur, a veteran leader in his own right, who made 25 saves in the win. "They have players that did it in Game 1 against us, and our guys did it in Game 3." That extra letter stitched on a player's sweater means something, especially here in New Jersey -- whether the players themselves care to admit it or not. And the rest of the warriors in the locker room are well aware of how special their group of captains is. The Devils are getting the kind of production they need out of guys who make up their heart and soul, and if they can find a way to keep it up, starting with Game 4 Sunday, it bodes well for the team going forward. Follow Sam Gardner on Twitter: @sam_gardner
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Kovalchuk's return plays crucial role in Devils' OT victory

"You're adding our leading scorer, one of the top five scorers in the League, so I think it can't do anything but help."Boy, Devils head coach Peter DeBoer was pretty spot on with his assessment at Thursday morning's media session of the return of Ilya Kovalchuk, wasn't he?Kovalchuk was reportedly hindered by a herniated disc in his lower back since midway...

Todd Cordell: Ilya Kovalchuk comes up huge, Devils take a 2-1 series lead over the Flyers

Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the New Jersey Devils lineup last night, and he did so in style as he picked up three points in the Devils 4-3 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Here are some notes on the game. - Before I get into notes on players and the game itself, I should point out that last night's Devils win clinched another home game, meaning they will have another...

Kovalchuk's Return Plays Crucial Role in Devils' OT Victory

"You're adding our leading scorer, one of the top five scorers in the League, so I think it can't do anything but help." Boy, Devils head coach Peter DeBoer was pretty spot on with his assessment at Thursday morning's media session of the return of Ilya Kovalchuk, wasn't he? Kovalchuk was reportedly hindered by a herniated disc in his lower back since...

Yet another article in which Zach Parise is eyed closely by various teams, including Detroit

Sigh. Whether New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise will hit the open market as a free agent this summer is up for debate, but what is not is the fact that the NHL’s press corps is even more excited about the prospect of Parise signing with a team other than the Devils than the teams that would happily line up with Brinks trucks in tow to court Parise’s services already are....

Game 2: Devils Don't Quit - Series Tied 1-1

  "Tonight I'm planking but on Thursday it's all about Tebowing!!"   You couldn’t escape the fact that Ilya Kovalchuk wasn’t in the lineup last night, mainly because Pierre Maguire and Kenny Albert weren’t going to let us forget. Guess what, it didn’t matter. The Devils worked hard all night and found a way to get the job done. They kept their frustration...

Zach Parise goal against the Flyers in game three

This is the reason former Fighting Sioux forward Zach Parise is going to make a lot of money on the free agency market during this summer.  I predict that the future Wild forward is probably going to be making somewhere in the 7-10 million dollar a year range. The Devils star Parise scored this beautiful goal in last night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Parise...

Game 3: Devils Come Home - Series Tied 1-1

There was a lot of talk about Kovalchuk missing Game 2 both before and during the game on Tuesday. By the end of the game all that seemed to matter was that the Devils went into Philly, stayed focused and came away with a 4 goal 3rd period and knocked off the Flyers 4-1 which evened the series at 1 game a piece as this series shifts to the Prudential Center for games 3...

Flyers Have Their Backs Against the Wall After OT Loss

It was to be their final line change of the game. With Erik Gustaffson and Brayden Schenn caught, Ilya Kovalchuk launched a nifty long pass down the ice and found Alexei Ponikarovsky streaking toward the net 1-on-1 against Andreas Lilja. He took one shot that Bryzgalov stopped, but the puck bounced back to him and he slid it into the net for an overtime winner. Just like that the...

Devils won't be a pushover to Flyers in Round 2

After Philadelphia rolled over Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs, there was a perception that the Flyers would be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Getting by New Jersey in the second round seemingly was a given after the No. 6 seed Devils needed seven games - and two overtimes in the last contest - to knock off Florida. Well, it's time to revise that...

Flyers-Devils Preview

After Philadelphia rolled over Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs, there was a perception that the Flyers would be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Deep. Driven. Determined. You name it. Getting by New Jersey in the second round seemingly was a given, especially after the No. 6 seed Devils needed seven games - and two overtimes in the last contest - to knock...

Devils' OT victory gives them 2-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. - The Devils' Alexei Ponikarovsky went to the net when a couple of Flyers decided to go to the bench. His instinctive move paid off. Ponikarovsky scored with 2:39 left in overtime, and the New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in Game 3 Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series. The Devils took advantage of...

Devils 4, Flyers 3 (OT)

NEWARK, N.J. -- Alexei Ponikarovsky scored with 2:39 left in overtime, and the New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in Game 3 Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series. The Devils took advantage of a poor line change by the Flyers, and Ilya Kovalchuk sent a stretch pass to Ponikarovsky. His first shot was stopped by Ilya Bryzgalov...

Morning Skate: May 4

The Morning After:Yesterday’s results:Devils 4, Flyers 3 (OT)Kings 4, Blues 2RLD 3 stars of the night:1. Alex Ponikarovsky, NJ (1 goal, 1 assist)2. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJ (1 goal, 2 assists)3. Drew Doughty, LA (1 goal, 2 assists)---Tonight’s slate:Coyotes @ Predators, 7:30 ET, Game 4#3 Phoenix Coyotes @ #4 Nashville PredatorsGame 4… 7:30 ET… TV: NBC Sports Network, TSNSeries...

Team Depth A Problem For The Blues

from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail, Talk to an NHL general manager about what it takes to win the Stanley Cup and the mantra is depth, depth, depth. The Stanley Cup playoffs are a war of attrition. The teams that can best replace their fallen or ineffective players will thrive. Look how the Philadelphia Flyers are struggling because their big star, centre Claude Giroux, appears...
NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.