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Kovalchuk’s 400th Just Enough, Devils Top Senators 1-0

Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk

Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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OTTAWA (AP) — Ilya Kovalchuk’s 400th NHL goal was exciting. His celebration was not.

Kovalchuk hit the milestone on Tuesday night, and provided the only offense in the New Jersey Devils’ 1-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators.

While working the point on the power play, Kovalchuk took a pass from defenseman Marek Zidlicky and fired a slap shot past goalie Ben Bishop with 2:40 left in the second period. The calm Kovalchuk kept his arms down and waited at the blue line for his teammates to come to him for a subdued celebration.

“It wasn’t much,” he said of his reaction, “so hopefully when I score my 500th it will be a little more exciting.”

The chuckle he added was his only display of emotion the whole night.

“I tried to not think about it, and that’s when it’s going to go in,” Kovalchuk said of the milestone goal. “When you try too much, you’ll get a bad bounce or hit the post or something. It doesn’t really matter to me, though, because the only important hockey is in front of us in April.”

The Devils are solidly in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Philadelphia and five in front of No. 7 Ottawa.

Kovalchuk also has 376 assists in 771 NHL regular-season games — the first 694 with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Subbing for Martin Brodeur, who lost 4-2 at the New York Rangers on Monday, Johan Hedberg made 34 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. He saved a first-period penalty shot by Erik Condra, who was tripped from behind on a breakaway by defenseman Anton Volchenkov.

“It’s always exciting when you score and especially because it was a big game for us, but (Hedberg) was outstanding and he’s the reason why we won,” Kovalchuk said. “I’ve never see anyone work harder than this guy in practice.

“Every day he shows up, and when he gets a chance, he plays unbelievable. We’ve got two great goalies, and we’re very confident in both of them.”

Bishop made 33 saves.

The Senators failed to capitalize on two late power plays, including a 5-on-3 advantage for nearly 30 seconds.

The Devils had a couple of early chances in the first period but Bishop turned them aside. The rest of the period was rather uneventful except for the penalty shot and a final-minute flurry by the Senators.

It was the second 1-0 win by the Devils in four games and their fourth of the season. They also have a 1-0 loss.

“They like to trap it up and make it a difficult game. We just weren’t able to get one past Hedberg,” Senators forward Nick Foligno said. “It was a funny game. We weren’t able to get too many power plays early on, and then we got some late but weren’t able to generate much offense.”

NOTES: In two previous meetings this season, the Senators lost 5-4 in a shootout on Dec 8 at New Jersey and rebounded to win 3-2 in overtime at home on Jan. 2. The Devils will host the final matchup of the season on April 7. … Ottawa C Jason Spezza, who missed the game because of an illness, is one game shy of 600 in the NHL — all with the Senators. Matt Carkner and Kaspars Daugavins were also out. Cam Janssen and Matt Taormina sat out for the Devils.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)