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Thursday, March 8, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Devils 5, Islanders 1

By Katie Strang




Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: Ilya Kovalchuk has single-handedly boosted the Devils to two straight wins with brilliant back-to-back performances against two of New Jersey's most hated division rivals. Following up on Tuesday's dominant two-point performance that led the Devils past the Rangers 4-1, Kovalchuk recorded his second hat trick in three weeks with three goals in the team's 5-1 victory against the Islanders. The 28-year-old sniper, who halted a nine-game goalless streak Tuesday, is tied with Marian Gaborik for third among active NHL players with 13 career hat tricks. Patrik Elias and David Clarkson also scored for the Devils while defenseman Marek Zidlicky, Zach Parise and Adam Henrique chipped in with two assists apiece.

New streak: Following his nine-game drought, Kovalchuk has tallied four times in the past two games. Burying his own rebound, Kovalchuk gave the Devils a 1-0 lead at 8:07 in the first, then one-timed a shot from the left circle for a power-play goal at 3:33 in the second. Kovalchuk notched his third of the night for his team-leading 29th of the season.

Knuckle-puck: Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald sent a fluttering puck from beneath the goal line and banked it off goaltender Martin Brodeur to cut the Devils’ lead in half, 2-1, at 16:21 of the second period. It was the first goal scored by an Islanders defenseman in 13 games.

Nilsson next time? : Perhaps Islanders coach Jack Capuano will go back to goaltender Anders Nilsson when the Islanders host the Devils on Saturday. The rookie netminder made 24 saves to record his first NHL shutout against the Devils Sunday, but backed up Evgeni Nabokov Thursday. Nabokov has given up 12 goals combined in his last three starts.

Surprising scratch: Islanders’ Michael Grabner was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. The 24-year-old winger, who has scored only one goal in the past 19 games, has struggled to replicate the success of his 34-goal rookie campaign. The former Calder Trophy finalist has 15 goals and 10 assists through 67 games this season.

Up Next: Devils @ Islanders, Saturday at 7 p.m.