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Zac Rinaldo’s slew footing inspires Ilya Kovalchuk to fight

Ilya Kovalchuk, referee Chris Lee

New Jersey Devils’ Ilya Kovalchuk, center, of Russia, looks toward official Chris Lee (28) on a call in which the Devils were denied a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


Ilya Kovalchuk doesn’t fight very often, but Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo and Brayden Schenn managed to convince him to drop the gloves for just the ninth time in 10 seasons.

Rinaldo followed up his questionable hit on Jacob Josefson in the second period of Saturday’s 6-4 loss to New Jersey by kicking Zach Parise’s foot out from under him with 8:22 minutes left in the third. That inspired Kovalchuk to grab Rinaldo, but Schenn broke the two up and declared that he was going to fight Kovalchuk.

Kovalchuk bested Schenn and earned his first Gordie Howe hat trick in the process. Although Kovalchuk added later with a smile that it would be his, “first of many.” Maybe he’ll end up with another partner when the Devils and Flyers engage in a home-and-home series on March 11 and 13.