Flyers vs. Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk and the 3 Stars of Game 3

Peter MillsContributor IIIMay 4, 2012

Flyers vs. Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk and the 3 Stars of Game 3

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    Game 3 has come and gone, and the New Jersey Devils have taken the series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. The team scored in the closing minutes of the first overtime period, ending the second overtime game of the series.

    Both teams fought hard and had several chances to take the game, but it was ultimately Alexei Ponikarovsky who ended the game.

    Here are the three stars from Game 3 of this Eastern Conference semifinals bout.

3. Danny Briere

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    Danny Briere has been killing it this series, and tonight was no different. The clutch Flyer assisted on the first goal. With fewer than nine minutes remaining in the game, he scored his league-leading eighth playoff goal.

    The points were Briere's third and fourth of the series and 11th and 12th of the postseason. He trails only teammate Claude Giroux in points, and has been racing to catch his relatively quiet teammate.

    Tonight, besides his two points, Briere added a plus-one rating, three shots, two hits, a blocked shot, a takeaway and more than 26 minutes of ice-time. He also won 11 of the 16 faceoffs he took part in.

2. Ilya Kovalchuk

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    Ilya Kovalchuk just played what was probably his best playoff game as a Devil.

    Kovy kept the workload light tonight, playing 22:09 (compared to Dainius Zubrus' 23:37). Still, he finished the game with three points.

    Kovy assisted on the Devils' first goal of the night, a power-play goal from Patrik Elias. Just 20 seconds later, he scored a goal of his own, ripping one past Ilya Bryzgalov at even strength. It was the fastest two goals in Devils' franchise history.

    Finally, late in overtime, Kovalchuk sent a long pass down ice, directly to the tape of Ponikarovsky's stick. It was his down-ice vision that allowed the Devils to capitalize on the opportunity. 

    Kovy went plus-two in the game while adding two shots, a takeaway and a hit.

1. Alexei Ponikarovsky

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    It would be easy to give Alexei Ponikarovsky the No. 1 star just for his game-winner, but that was far from his only contribution to the game.

    Playing over 18 minutes—including 1:08 shorthanded—Poni added the secondary assist to Kovalchuk's go-ahead goal in the first period.

    During the game, he also managed four shots and three hits, along with a win on the only faceoff he took.

    But there was also the overtime goal. After a failed offensive chance, the Devils were forced to take the puck out of the Flyers' end to regroup. Kovalchuk skated back a ways before looping around and tossing the puck straight to Ponikarovsky.

    The pass gave the Devils a 2-on-1, but Poni was the only one that needed to touch the puck. He sent a shot hard at the net, which Ilya Bryzgalov was able to turn aside. But he almost immediately batted in his own rebound on the backhand in a beautiful mix of coordination and reflexes.