KANATA, Ont. -- After becoming the 87th player in NHL to scored 400 career goals, Ilya Kovalchuk was more interested in talking about the New Jersey Devils' playoff hopes.
Kovalchuk reached the milestone Tuesday night by scoring the only goal in New Jersey's 1-0 victory against Ottawa at Scotiabank Place. He scored his 400th on a power-play blast late in the second period of his 771st NHL game, making him one of only three active players to score 400 goals in less than 900 games. Teemu Selanne did it in 700 games, and Jaromir Jagr scored 400 goals in 742.
Despite the accolades, Kovalchuk remained focused on the bigger picture – the playoffs and eventually, a Stanley Cup win.
"It's totally important, the hockey in front of us in April," he said. "I just want to finish the season strong and play our best hockey in the last eight games."
As for the milestone, "It doesn’t really matter," he said. "I try not to think about it – and that's when it's going to go in. When you try too much, that's when you find a bad bounce or hit the post."
Kovalchuk low-keyed the celebration -- he didn't even raise his arms after the goal. But he did admit he was happy defenseman Andy Greene scooped up the puck for him.
"I'm going to keep that one," he said. "It wasn't much of a celebration. Hopefully when I score my 500th it's going to be a little more exciting."
Kovalchuk may have been nonchalant about scoring his 400th goal, but his coach was excited.
"It was a big goal," Peter DeBoer said. "That's what he does. It was probably appropriate that he scored his 400th the way he did. I think that was a textbook Kovalchuk goal -- a one-timer from the off side, top shelf."