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Kovalchuk keys Devils' win over Penguins

(Reuters) - Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a first-period penalty shot and assisted on David Clarkson's goal minutes later as the New Jersey Devils defeated the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in an Eastern Conference matchup on Saturday.

Kovalchuk's penalty shot, after Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik was penalized for covering the puck in the crease, gave the Devils a 1-0 lead 14 minutes into the first before Clarkson made it 2-0 on a power play 24 seconds before the end of the first period.

The Russian forward's goal enabled him to even the score with Penguins' netminder Marc-Andre Fleury who had saved one of his penalty shot attempts in March 2010.

"It was nice," Kovalchuk told reporters. "A little rematch. It's nice when the coach trusts you and when you produce.

"It was the new year in Russia right when we started," Kovalchuk said. "And they showed the game in Russia live, so it was good for everybody."

Zach Parise had taken both of New Jersey's previous penalty shots this season, scoring once.

But coach Peter DeBoer, at the encouragement of assistant Adam Oates, decided to give Kovalchuk the opportunity on Saturday.

"He thrives in those situations," DeBoer said.

Kovalchuk also had another assist when the Devils added an empty netter by Parise with less than a minute left in the game. It came after Pittsburgh had pulled to 2-1 on Chris Kunitz's third period power play goal.

Martin Brodeur made an impressive 29 saves as the Devils won for the ninth time in 12 games. Pittsburgh's Fleury produced 18 stops.

Clarkson's goal came 70 seconds after the Penguins' Jordan Staal was sent to the penalty box for two minutes for slashing Parise.

(Reporting By Gene Cherry in Salvo North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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