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Three more points for Kovalchuk in Devils' 4-1 win

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. -- Ilya Kovalchuk is playing so well right now for the New Jersey Devils, he's even turning defenseman Anton Volchenkov into an offensive threat.
While Kovalchuk was putting on yet another offensive clinic, it was Volchenkov who put the finishing touches on a picturesque, 2-on-1 breakout with his fellow Russian countryman to ultimately spark the Devils to a 4-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at the Prudential Center.
"Volchie … he was skating like the wind, so it's nice for him to get the game-winner," Kovalchuk said. "If he's going to get open like that, we'll have to find him for sure."
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur made 18 saves to earn his 25th win of the season and the 650th of his career.
"It's hard when you play to realize what you're achieving [in your career] so I think it's more for the people looking at you and following you," Brodeur said. "For me, it's another day. I just have to work and try to win games. The older you get, you appreciate it a little more. There's not really much more I can do that's going to be really, really special -- I've done it. Now, it's just piling numbers to make sure that next guy really works for it."
Brodeur holds NHL records for career wins (650), shutouts (117) and games played (1,180). He is 45-29-9 all-time against the Flyers in 84 appearances.
"That's unreal," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "It does feel like yesterday that he just got [win] No. 552. It's gone by fast."
The Devils have now won four straight and are 5-1-0 in their last six games and have allowed just five goals over that span. The victory moved the Devils into a tie with the Flyers in points with 85, but the latter still holds fifth place in the Eastern Conference having played one fewer game. The Flyers, who will play host to the Devils on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center, had their five-game winning streak snapped. The game was the fifth for the Flyers in eight nights.
The Flyers had pulled into a 1-1 tie early in the third but that didn't seem to faze the surging Devils, who rattled home three straight to open a commanding 4-1 lead. Parise and Patrik Elias each had a goal and one assist and defenseman Marek Zidlicky had two assists in the triumph.
"Sometimes, you're losing the battle, but that doesn't mean you don't want to win it," Flyers' Jaromir Jagr said. "We could put more pressure. But they were strong on the puck. It doesn't mean we didn't want to, but they were better on the boards. I don't think we won many battles on the boards."
Claude Giroux connected for his 25th of the season when his jam at the left post beat Brodeur on the short side just 16 seconds into the third to pull the Flyers into a 1-1 tie. Jagr made the play happen when he skated down his left wing before dishing Giroux in the left circle. With his goal, Giroux became just the third Flyer to produce 80 points in a season since the work stoppage -- Jeff Carter (84 points) and Mike Richards (80 points) reached that milestone in 2008-09.
The Devils regained the lead at 2:45 when Volchenkov swept home his second of the season from the right circle after taking a feed from Kovalchuk off a 2-on-1.
"I don't see the net was open … I just put it in the net," Volchenkov said. "It was a good pass."
It was a pass that Devils coach Peter DeBoer didn't expect. Volchenkov scored his second goal of the season.
"I was yelling at Kovy to shoot when I saw who was with him," DeBoer said. "It goes to show you Kovy is smarter than I am."
Kovalchuk then connected off a blast from between the circles after taking a feed from Zidlicky at the 8:08 mark to extend the lead to 3-1. The goal was Kovalchuk's 30th of the season, giving him nine straight seasons of at least that many goals. Since the All-Star break, Kovalchuk has 11 goals and 31 points in 21 games.
Parise would then close out the scoring with a power-play goal at 14:19 of the third. The Devils have scored five power-play goals over the last two games against the Flyers -- both victories.
Brodeur said he's proud of the way the entire team has really battled in the defensive zone.
"We're playing well, especially in the last 20 games … there's a lot more of an urgency playing defense," Brodeur said. "Guys are blocking shots, and there are second efforts. I don't why, but that was tougher for us earlier in the season.
"Guys weren't sure when to really hit that button to say 'We got to get that puck out' and were staying passive. We're a lot more together with the five guys or two defensemen with the centermen … guys are reading off each other better."
The Devils opened a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal with just 24.4 seconds remaining in the first when Elias redirected a pass from David Clarkson. Flyers defenseman Andreas Lilja fell down in the neutral zone to give Clarkson and Elias a 2-on-1 into the offensive zone. The goal, which ended Philadelphia's streak without allowing a goal at 106:43, was the 24th for Elias this season and his 33rd in 75 career games against the Flyers.
Brodeur had the best save of the period, stopping rookie Sean Couturier with 9:55 remaining. Couturier was alone in the left circle and ripped a shot that the 39-year-old goalie snared with his left glove.
Sergei Bobrovsky, making his first start for the Flyers since Feb. 18, made 10 saves in the opening 20 minutes and finished the game with 27 stops.
"I've seen us with a lot better jump and a lot better pump," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "Against Toronto (on Saturday), I thought Bryz stole the show. But I thought (Bobrovsky) played well … I'm not knocking "Bob" here. But our attack was not where it needs to be, and that takes a lot of work."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale
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