Newark, NJ – Since snapping a nine-game goalless streak Tuesday, Ilya Kovalchuk appears to be on his way toward starting one in the other direction.
Following his stellar two-point effort in the team’s decisive 4-1 victory against the Rangers Tuesday, Kovalchuk delivered yet another dominant performance Thursday, scoring three goals to record his 13th career hat trick and boost the Devils over the Isles 5-1.
“I got here to score goals and make plays for my team, try to make my team win,” Kovalchuk said. “That’s what I’m doing and right now we feel very comfortable.”
Kovalchuk opened scoring for the Devils for the tenth time this season – burying his own rebound against goaltender Evgeni Nabokov at 8:07 of the first – and went on to notch a goal in each of the remaining two periods as well.
After one-timing a shot from the left circle for a power-play goal at 3:33 of the second, Kovalchuk fired one from the slot in the third for his team-leading 29th of the season and second hat trick in three weeks.
Kovalchuk’s 13 career hat tricks ties him with Rangers sniper Marian Gaborik for third among all active NHL players.
“He’s got the puck all over the ice, defensive zone, offensive zone, neutral zone, he creates things out there, he wants the puck,” said rookie Adam Henrique, who chipped in with two assists. “He’s a game-changer.”
Parise also added two helpers, picking up primary assists on two of Kovalchuk’s goals, including his third of the night to shut the door on the Islanders at 8:09 of the third.
“Any time your linemate gets his second one, you’ve got to do whatever you can to get him the third. He found himself in good spots tonight and we were able to get him the puck. Some great shots…world-class shots,” said Parise, who recorded his 400th NHL point Thursday. “He was really good tonight.”
With four goals in the past two games, the Devils have their top player performing at his peak. And if this is the beginning of a new skein, they’ll be glad to ride it out with 15 games remaining.
Next up is the Islanders --the two teams' third meeting in six days – in Uniondale on Saturday. Will his streak continue?
“Let’s not talk about it,” Kovalchuk said. “We’ll see Saturday.”