- Last Updated: 12:57 PM, June 3, 2012
- Posted: 2:45 AM, June 3, 2012
Fourteen seconds to go in regulation, Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals tied at 1-1, who would you rather see with the puck on his stick at point blank range than Ilya Kovalchuk?
Go ahead, who?
But with the series-tying goal on his blade, with Jonathan Quick at his mercy, Kovalchuk just didn’t quite get all of it, just didn’t quite drive it; just didn’t hit the net.
Instead, with Anze Kopitar reaching and perhaps getting a piece of Kovalchuk’s blade, the wingers’ shot fluttered over Quick’s shoulder and rang off the cross-bar.
“What are you going to do?” Kovalchuk asked and essentially answered in a monotone after the game had ended badly.
What Kovalchuk and the Devils are bound to do, is travel to Los Angeles for the next two games, down 2-0 following a second consecutive 2-1 overtime defeat, this one sealed when Jeff Carter sent a seeing-eye wrist shot past Martin Brodeur at 13:42.
What the Devils must do in order to claim their fourth Stanley Cup is win four of the next five against a Kings’ club that has gone 14-2 in the playoffs—10-0 on the road—to move within two victories of their first Cup in the history of a franchise that began play with the original six-team western conference expansion of 1967-68.
And they must do this against a club that Brodeur said was, “Oh, by far,” the best team the Devils have run up against in this run during which they have dispatched the Panthers, Flyers and Rangers.
The Devils amped up their game from Wednesday’s opening 2-1 defeat in which they did next to nothing. They carried the play most of regulation before being outshot 11-3 in OT, even if they couldn’t quite generate a sufficient number of opportunities against Quick, brilliant in directing rebounds out of harm’s way.
In order to pull this off, the Devils must repair a power play that has been miserable through the first two games in going 0-for-6 in 10:51, especially so last night in generating just three shots in 6:51 on the man advantage.
“It’s embarrassing the way we play on the power play,” said Kovalchuk, on for all but nine seconds of the PP. “We think it’s going to be easy, but we have to work, we have to be sharp.”
Kovalchuk had two shots on seven attempts in 27:07 after getting one on net in three attempts in 21:13 in Game 1. The winger had one shot in OT, a one-time blast from the left circle. His next and last chance came at 7:30 when his left wing wrist shot was blocked by the upright Rob Scuderi.
Coach Peter DeBoer reunited Kovalchuk with Travis Zajac and Zach Parise for the third period and overtime in juggling all his combinations other than the Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier fourth line. And it was Carter who scored on a redirect at 2:59 of the third to erase a 1-0 deficit that had stood since Drew Doughty scored at 7:49 of the first.
Get this: Carter has recorded four of the 10 even-strength goals the Devils have scored in the last two rounds, with Gionta adding another.
The fourth line, in other words, has half of the team’s even-strength goals against the Rangers and Kings.
Kovalchuk, playing through a lower back issue that struck early in the second round, has not scored an even-strength goal in the last 10 matches, since Game 3 against the Flyers, one month ago today.
The winger is obviously not close to being himself, unable to accelerate, unable to use his speed, unable to pull away, but neither he nor the coach are making excuses for his lack of production.
And so it’s on to Los Angeles. If the Devils are going to do anything, they will need Kovalchuk to score.Follow @NYPostsports