The New Jersey Devils
' unexpected bid to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs is being led by the man who got all the headlines during the free-agent signing period last summer.
While he struggled mightily along with the rest of the team during its 10-29-2 first half, Ilya Kovalchuk
has spent the past two months showing Devils fans and the rest of the NHL why he commanded a 15-year, $100-million contract by carrying the team on his back during crunch moments in games.
A perfect example came last Wednesday when the Devils hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning
. The two sides traded second-period goals and the game was 1-1 entering the third period. Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby
attempted to clear a puck out of his own end but instead put it on the stick of Devils center Travis Zajac
. His cross-ice pass was slightly behind a cutting Kovalchuk, but he was able to rear back and, while beginning to fall forward, get off a one-timer that soared into the left corner of the net.