For now, however, he'll take what he can get.
Kovalchuk scored a pair of goals -- his first multi-goal game as a Devil -- and goalie Martin Brodeur made 29 saves in leading the Devils to a 3-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes at Prudential Center.
The much-needed triumph snapped a five-game losing streak for New Jersey.
"We're far away from where we want to be, but we have to take one at a time," said Kovalchuk, who has 7 goals and 16 points in 29 games. "If we play like we did tonight, we'll be in good shape. It takes 61 games for me to finally get two-goal game, but I'll take that and hopefully it's going to be more often."
Brodeur, meanwhile, earned his third shutout of the season and the 113th of his career. The future Hall of Fame goalie had lost his last four starts, including a 4-1 loss to the Red Wings on Saturday when he yielded two goals on two shots in the first 1:42 of the game. Brodeur returned to the lineup on Dec. 10 after missing seven games with a bruised elbow. He was making his third straight start.
"You need to play … it's one thing when your team plays super-well in front of you and sometimes you don't see that rust as much," Brodeur said. "When the team is playing well, you don't get exposed as much and that's what happened in the first two games for me but we've had healthy practices of late and things were going well. We have to keep climbing."
The Devils will look to equal a season-best two straight victories on Friday when the red-hot Nashville Predators pay a visit.
The Devils preserved Brodeur's shutout with some stellar defensive play over the final 1:52 of the game, killing off a Phoenix power play while not allowing a shot. The Devils' penalty-killing unit has successfully denied the opposition in 19 straight opportunities, spanning five games. New Jersey killed three Phoenix chances on Wednesday, while yielding three shots shorthanded.
"We didn't have the energy and the desperation that they had, and they made us look bad," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said.
Brodeur's best two stops in the third came during the opening three minutes when he denied Kyle Turris from in close at 2:27 before turning away Scottie Upshall off a rebound at 2:43. The 38-year-old Brodeur had eight saves in the final period.
"We know we have a lot of work to do but when you win, it makes it nice for the time being," Brodeur said. "Knowing the position we're in, it's not really fun. But it was fun (Wednesday)."
Kovalchuk, who had 43 multi-goal goal games in seven-plus seasons in Atlanta, scored 5:30 after the opening faceoff to put the Devils ahead, then ripped home his second of the game during a two-man advantage 4:49 into the third to give his team a commanding 3-0 lead. He finished with 22:51 of ice time and produced five shots, the most he's had since a season-high eight-shot performance in a victory against Philadelphia on Nov. 27.
The power-play goal was the seventh for the Devils in the past five games.
"I'm happy for him," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said of Kovalchuk. "He's under a lot of pressure to score goals for us. With the situation we're in, I think he's taking a lot of heat for it so it's good to see him get a couple. We want him shooting the puck more and you saw that tonight."
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said he didn't see the kind of effort his team needs to be win.
"We're a team that if we don't play all out, all the time, we're not going to be successful," he said. "Tonight was a perfect example. We had far too many guys that were taking the easy way out instead of the hard way in. And when we do that, it's going to be hard to win games."
After Kovalchuk had given the Devils a 1-0 lead in the first off a rocket from between the circles, Langenbrunner played a key role in helping rookie defenseman Mark Fayne score his first NHL goal.
Fayne ripped a slap shot from the right point that zipped past a screened Ilya Bryzgalov at 13:18. Langenbrunner did much of the grunt work behind the Phoenix net before feeding the 23-year-old defenseman and then heading for the net. Following Fayne's goal, Langenbrunner collected the souvenir puck. Initially, the goal was credited to Langenbrunner, but the Devils' captain informed the officials while serving an interference penalty late in the first that he hadn't touched the puck.
"I was pretty certain I didn't touch when they said I did," Langenbrunner said. "I thought about it for a bit when I got the penalty and talked to those guys, and they asked me, and I said I don't think so. But it was good to see him score, I was pretty sure it was his and I'm happy for him."
So was Brodeur. Fayne, incidentally, possesses the only right-handed shot among the Devils defensive corps.
"He's been playing well," Brodeur said. "He's a big body (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) with a good shot. I think it's great for young guys to be able to step up, but I think size helps him a lot. He makes a few mistakes here and there, but he plays physical and has a long reach and a big stick. And now we have a guy who shoots the other way -- it's nice to have a righty out there."
Fayne, who was playing in only his 10th game of the season, has been paired with puck-mover Andy Greene.
"It was awesome (to score his first NHL goal)," Fayne said. "It's one of those things that you don't try and think about too much, but when it happens, it's definitely special. I know I'm not going to get too many chances. It didn't matter to me (if Langenbrunner did score the goal). I was just happy it was a goal. It would have been my first point, so it was exciting either way."
Fayne feels fortunate to be partnered up with Greene.
"He's been awesome and has helped me out with everything, on and off the ice," Fayne said. "He's an awesome college guy, so he's great off the transition coming through. It's been great."
Greene spent four seasons at the University of Miami. Fayne, New Jersey's fifth-round choice (No. 155) in 2005, played four seasons at Providence College.
Brodeur, who made 21 saves over the first two periods, was tested early in the second with his team holding a two-goal lead when Taylor Pyatt unleashed a wicked slap shot from the left circle that he deftly turned away with his left pad at the 2:47 mark. He would then smother a big slap shot by Phoenix captain Shane Doan at 9:12.
When asked if there was any significance to shutout No. 113, Brodeur smiled.
"I guess we'll just keep climbing to make it harder on the guys behind me," he said.Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
|Rod Pelley Interference against Taylor Pyatt|
|Keith Yandle Interference against Adam Mair|
|Jamie Langenbrunner Interference on goalkeeper against Ilya Bryzgalov|
|Shane Doan Holding against Mattias Tedenby|
|Sami Lepisto Hooking against Mattias Tedenby|
|Martin Hanzal Hi stick - double minor against Jason Arnott|
|David Clarkson Cross checking against Kyle Turris|