NEWARK, N.J. -- Ilya Kovalchuk broke a 2-2 tie with a third-period goal, his first since returning from a shoulder injury, leading New Jersey to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Devils' final home game of the season.
Kovalchuk took a fine feed from Steve Sullivan and fired his 11th goal of the season. The puck seemed to deflect off a Pittsburgh defender in front, and it went past Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with 6:10 left.
The Devils also got goals from Travis Zajac and David Clarkson after the Penguins scored the game's first two goals, from Matt Cooke in the first period and Jussi Jokinen in the second.
The win enabled the Devils to improve to 19-18-10 overall, 13-9-2 at home.
The Penguins (35-12-0) lost for only the sixth time in their past 26 games.
Johan Hedberg made 16 saves for the Devils in his first start since March 19. Fleury had 29 saves.
The Devils got the tying goal in the opening minutes of the third period on a power play. Pascal Dupuis was called for tripping, and soon after, Clarkson received a great pass from Patrik Elias and scored his 15th goal of the season with 16:59 left. It was only the third goal in the last 14 games for Clarkson, who had scored 10 goals in the first 12 games of the lockout-shortened campaign.
Zajac almost had his second goal of the game, but his hard shot bounced off the crossbar with 12:24 remaining.
Rookie Eric Gelinas had a chance to break the tie as well, but his slap shot from the point was gloved by Fleury. Gelinas was playing in his first NHL game.
The Devils had the better of the action in the first period, outshooting the Penguins by a 12-6 margin.
However, Pittsburgh had the only score, as Cooke knocked the puck through Hedberg's legs for his seventh goal of the season midway through the first period. Brenden Morrow kept the play alive in the Devils' end and pushed it toward the goal, where Cooke was alone in front. Cooke didn't get all of the shot, but he managed enough to slide it past Hedberg for the 1-0 lead at the 8:52 mark.
The Penguins scored again in the second period on the power-play.
With Elias in the box for tripping, Kris Letang made a perfect lead pass to Jokinen, who managed to corral a bouncing puck to fire a high wrist shot past Hedberg for his 11th goal of the season with 5:59 left in the period. It was the fifth goal for Jokinen in nine games with the Penguins since being acquired in a trade with Carolina on April 3.
The Devils sliced the lead in half with 1:27 remaining in the second when Zajac knocked in a rebound of a second shot from Anton Volchenkov. It was Zajac's seventh goal of the season and his first since April 10.
NOTES: Elias will be an unrestricted free agent after Saturday's season finale against the New York Rangers, so Thursday night could very well have been the final home game for the franchise's all-time leader in goals (375), assists (553) and points (928). The 37-year-old Elias would love to return to the Devils next season, but he doesn't know his status. ... Gelinas was a second-round pick in the 2009 draft. He suffered a broken jaw and had eight teeth displaced when he was hit in the mouth with a slap shot playing for Albany of the AHL last October. He was recalled to the Devils this week to replace the injured Bryce Salvador, and he started Thursday along with Peter Harrold. ... Before the game, Hedberg, a 40-year-old veteran, reiterated that he wants to return next season to honor the final year on his contract, much like the Devils' other 40-year-old netminder, Martin Brodeur. ... The Penguins have clinched the top seed in the NHL Eastern Conference playoffs, but they still do not know their first-round playoff opponent. It could be one of five teams. ... Standout center Sidney Crosby remains out of action with a broken jaw, and there is no timetable for his return. The Penguins are hopeful he can return for the first round of the playoffs.