Kovalchuk’s gutsy Game 3 performance draws “world class” reviews

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That the phrase “world class” came from both dressing rooms says it all about Ilya Kovalchuk’s effort on Thursday night.

“He is a world class player,” Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said. “He is very dangerous. He played hard. When the team needed him, he defended. He took advantage of his opportunities to shoot the puck.

“He is always dangerous. He is a great player.”

As for Kovalchuk’s snap pass that sprung Alexei Ponikarovsky for the game-winning goal in overtime?

“It’s a world-class play,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “Not many guys have the poise to hold the puck there, recognize a line change on the other team and spring somebody.

“There’s only a handful of guys that can make that play, and we’re fortunate to have him on our team.”

In addition to setting up Ponikarovsky’s goal, No. 17 also assisted on the Devils’ opening tally before scoring the second himself. That Kovalchuk did this with a back injury — believed to be a herniated disc — only adds to the aura.

He also played 19:29, not bad for a guy that missed Game 2 because the injury was too painful to play with.

“I feel a lot better compared to almost the whole first series and then the first game of the second series,” Kovalchuk said. “I want to say thanks to all the trainers and doctors. They did a great job. Now, hopefully, I’m just going to move on and feel better every day.”

Sounds like New Jersey’s medical staff is world class, too.