NEWARK, N.J. – Ilya Kovalchuk sensed something different about the New Jersey Devils before they faced the Phoenix Coyotes.
It suddenly didn’t matter that they had dropped five straight and six of seven.
Ilya Kovalchuk snapped out of a five-game drought by scoring two goals, his first multiple goal game of the season, and carried the Devils to a 3-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night.
Martin Brodeur stopped 29 shots for his third shutout of the season and NHL-record 113th of his career.
“We had a lot of life in the pre-game skate, and there was a lot of life on the bench,” Kovalchuk said.
Brodeur said he also felt the extra jump in the Devils.
“You could really sense that there was a good feeling,” Brodeur said. “It was in the locker room beforehand and when we took the ice. It had been a while since we felt that energized.”
The positive karma carried over for the entire game for the Devils, with their two stars leading the way.
Rookie defenceman Mark Fayne scored the first goal of his NHL career in the first period. It was the first win in the month of December for the struggling Devils (9-19-2). The Coyotes dropped to 14-9-6.
Kovalchuk gave the Devils a 1-0 lead with his sixth goal of the season just five minutes into the game and he added a power-play goal in the third period with 13 minutes remaining.
“You could see the effort right away,” Kovalchuk said. “We didn’t want to sit back and wait for something to happen. We had to make things happen.”
The Devils, who last won Nov. 27 against Philadelphia, wasted little time in taking control. Just five minutes in, Kovalchuk took a pass in front from Dainius Zubrus and fired a shot on one knee that went past goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Devils’ lead doubled at 13:18 when Fayne secured the puck just inside the blue line and flicked in a shot. The goal was initially credited to Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner but was changed at the start of the second period.
“I was just happy that we got the goal and it was my first point ever, so I was happy about that,” Fayne said. “We needed to get ahead and keep that lead. I had no idea it was my goal. There were two guys in front. Jamie told me on the bench that he didn’t touch it, that it was my goal. I didn’t care I had to wait a while to get credit. It was still exciting.”
Kovalchuk then capped the best night of his frustrating season with a goal, just seconds into New Jersey’s 5-on-3 power play, after Sami Lepisto went off for hooking. Kovalchuk, in the first season of a 15-year, US$100 million contract, was at the point of the power-play. He gave the puck to Patrik Elias and then got it back before firing a wrist shot past Bryzgalov.
“It had been a while since I had two goals in a game, something like 60 games,” Kovalchuk said. “It was a solid team game. We still have a long way to go to get to where we want to be. We can’t forget it’s just one game.”
The Devils are 14th in the Eastern Conference and still are 16 points below the post-season cutoff.
“It’s definitely nice, but we don’t want to get overexcited,” Brodeur said. “We have to take it step by step, then have games like this over and over. The atmosphere was better and it showed. It translated over to the ice.”
Phoenix forward Shane Doan was displeased with his team’s performance.
“It’s a little disappointing when you have a team that’s struggling like that, and we let them come out and take control,” Doan said. “They were a desperate team and we gave them life by allowing the two early goals. They were able to feed off that.”
NOTES: Veteran forward Brian Rolston cleared waivers on Wednesday and was back in the Devils’ lineup. Rolston nearly scored in the closing minutes, but Bryzgalov kicked aside his hard backhander. … Phoenix had won seven of 10 on the road. The Coyotes started a six-game trip that will last 11 days.