November 10, 2010
The scene: The Buffalo Sabres leading the New Jersey Devils in the shootout on Wednesday night, needing one more Jhonas Enroth(notes) save for the victory. The player: Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), the Devils' $100-million star winger with a chance to extend the overtime.
The result: The most anti-climactic ending to a shootout in recent human history.
Wow. Just ... wow. Would the needle scratching across the record or the car crash sound effect better enhance that epic shootout fail? Another look, this time with Buffalo's announcer's memorable call:
[Photos: More of winger Kovalchuk in action]
That whiff gave the Sabres a 5-4 victory on the road, in coach Lindy Ruff's 1,000th NHL game behind the bench. Said Kovalchuk to reporters, when asked about the "attempt": "The puck rolled off my stick. That's what happened." (s/t Gulitti)
In a pathetic season for the Devils (4-10-2) and during a terrible start for Kovalchuk (zero goals in his last seven games, three for the season), this may have been the Russian sniper's nadir. The Devils put four goals on the board with star goalie Martin Brodeur(notes) in street clothes with an injury; one more goal originating from the stick of Kovalchuk during regulation or overtime could have meant a victory they desperately needed.
[Rewind video: NHL player's incredible shootout goal]
Instead, he had zero points on three shots, playing to a minus-1. That included a breakaway late in the game that saw Kovalchuk send the puck above the net and into low Earth orbit. Signed to be a difference-maker, he didn't make a difference.
We'd say the image of that Koval-choke, as he fumbled the puck away, perfectly captures the Devils' 2010-11 campaign ... but that was until Puck Buddies Robby C. and Tony E. sent over this image from the game's TV coverage, featuring injured Devils Zach Parise(notes), Martin Brodeur and Jacob Josefson(notes):
In fairness, Marty had just downloaded a "Double Cheeseburgers of the World" app.
[Related: Soccer star's embarrassing own goal]