Kovalchuk skated out to the point, reversed direction, went back down to the left circle, hit the brakes to lose defenseman Joe Corvo and then let loose a shot that beat Cam Ward to the glove side.
The goal allowed the Devils to take another step in their unlikely playoff push with a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
“That’s what he does with the puck that no one else can do,” Palmieri said after New Jersey won its fifth straight and for the 13th time in 16 games. “My job was to get in front of the net and set a screen, but obviously there is no rebound on a shot like that.”
Sergei Samsonov, who scored Carolina’s first goal, has seen Kovalchuk make plays like that many times.
“You give him room and he is going to make you look stupid,” Samsonov said. “He’s been doing it his whole career.”
The goal was the sixth in seven games for Kovalchuk, whose game has slowly returned to superstar levels since Jacques Lemaire replaced John MacLean as coach in late December.
He has even become a fan favorite again. After scoring his 20th of the season, he went down to a knee and rubbed the ice as the crowd chanted ‘Kovy, Kovy, Kovy’ for the man they loved to boo when things were bad earlier this season.