The Russian sniper had played a grand total of nine post-season games -- four with the Atlanta Thrashers and five with the Devils -- prior to this spring.
His sixth goal of these playoffs, a laser beam over Henrik Lundquist's glove, not only gave the Devils an early lead Wednesday night but managed to quiet the raucous MSG crowd.
You had to feel bad for Rangers forward Brandon Prust, who lost his stick during a Devils powerplay but still attempted to cover Kovalchuk.
The skilled winger dangled back and forth and had poor Prust spinning like a top.
NAIL IT DOWN
There should be no question what the Edmonton Oilers will do with their first-overall draft pick next month.
Last year, there were those who felt the Oilers should take Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson with the top pick.
Instead, they took the best player available, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is playing a key role with Team Canada at the world championships.
Larsson was a healthy scratch for the Devils on Wednesday night and has dressed for just five post-season tilts.
Anyone still pushing for the Oil to take D-man Ryan Murray instead of Nail Yakupov in June?
Rangers bench boss John Tortorella's hate-hate relationship with the media has gotten tiresome.
His terse and condescending attitude toward anyone with a microphone is bizarre.
Has he forgotten where he earns his paycheques between coaching gigs?
As a member of the media!
Here is the entire transcript from Wednesday morning's media conference:
QUESTION: The guys you brought up, how do you use them, not in the series, but what is the thought behind having them up here?
TORTORELLA: Just have players ready to play in case we run into injuries.
Q: What has been the key, do you think, of your strong recent third periods?
TORTORELLA: Staying with it.
Q: Being aggressive?
TORTORELLA: Staying with it.
Q: John, if you've got a guy who is not going offensively like you know he can, what has historically been your tactic? Do you talk to him? Do you just ride it out?
TORTORELLA: Depends on the player. Depends on the player, depends on the situation. It's a question that I can't answer because it all depends on the situation.
Q: So if I asked you about Ryan Callahan?
TORTORELLA: I won't answer.
Martin Brodeur says he isn't considering retirement.
Nor should he.
The Devils' legendary goalie looks anything but washed up despite turning 40 earlier this month.
He made a ridiculous stop on Marc Staal in the series-opener and made another acrobatic save on Marian Gaborik, sticking his right pad up in the air Wednesday night to backstop the Devils to a 3-2 victory.
It's hard to blame the players for crossing the line when they don't know where the line is.
The NHL had another opportunity to throw the book at obvious offender but elected for another slap on the wrist.
Phoenix Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal's dangerous hit from behind on Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown was only worth one game?
Sure, Hanzal doesn't have a head-hunting history like teammate Raffi Torres, who was handed a 25-game ban for knocking out Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa in the opening round.
And yes, Brown was able to return to the game.
But things could have been so much worse.
What has gotten into David Clarkson?
He came out of nowhere to put up 30 goals during the regular season.
And he just keeps producing in the playoffs.
Wednesday night's chest-high redirection was a beauty.