Kovalchuk was consoled by teammates after the game.
Ilya Kovalchuk had the game on his stick with the home crowd on its feet and a chance to keep the Devils alive in the shootout. But as he skated in on goal and prepared to shoot, the puck took a bad bounce and dribbled harmlessly away.
It's been that kind of a frustrating start for Kovalchuk and the Devils, who came up short Wednesday with a 5-4 shootout loss to the visiting Buffalo Sabres.
"The puck rolled over my stick, that's what happened," Kovalchuk said after the Devils had fallen to 0-5-2 at home.
Kovalchuk also could have been the hero late in regulation, when he skated in on Buffalo netminder Jhonas Enroth, but fired a slapshot high over the net with two minutes to go.
"Sure he's pressing," said head coach John MacLean. "He doesn't want to be in that situation. He's a prideful guy. He's just going through a tough time. We have to hang with it and he's going to come out of it."
Derek Roy's goal in the shootout's fourth round gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead before Kovalchuk had his chance to tie it. Thomas Vanek scored for Buffalo in the second round and Jamie Langenbrunner answered in the third.
It capped a thrilling contest that was tied four times and featured two lead changes. Jason Arnott scored his team-leading fifth and sixth goals of the year, while Langenbrunner and David Clarkson chipped in with a goal apiece.
Mattias Tedenby assisted on Arnott's first marker to pick up a point in his NHL debut. The Devils (4-10-2) secured a point in their first shootout of the season.
"We did things that we wanted to do tonight," Arnott said. "Score goals, score a power play goal. We still have to clean up our own zone. Little things are killing us. We panicked a little bit back there in front of Heddy and we have to clean that up or it's not going to get any better."
Johan Hedberg battled hard in his second straight start to finish with 38 saves, including seven in overtime. He had several key stops and foiled a 2-on-1 with Roy and Vanek 12 seconds into the extra session.
"You saw two desperate teams that are searching a little bit to get on track," Hedberg said. "A lot of heart out there."
Hedberg spent four seasons with Kovalchuk in Atlanta, and feels the sniper will snap out of his dry spell. The two-time 50-goal scorer has lit the lamp three times in 15 games this season.
"Some guys just have that extra dynamic to their game," Hedberg said. "Maybe sometimes they play on an edge. You can tell Kovy, he wants it so bad. He wants to help out so bad. He has a great heart, there's not a lot of guys that care more than he does. He will get there."
The Devils held leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3, only to see the Sabres rally back. Tyler Myers had a goal and two assists and set up Ennis' goal that knotted the game, 4-4, at 8:54 of the third.
Arnott opened the scoring in the first, driving to the net to backhand a Patrik Elias rebound at 10:12. Jason Pominville and Roy struck in a span of 13 seconds of the six-goal second period to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead.
MacLean called timeout to settle down his players, and they responded with the next two tallies, then carried a 4-3 lead into the third.
"We battled back hard and did what we needed to do," Langenbrunner said. "Tough play around the net, we lost our guy there (Ennis) on the fourth one. Then you go to the shootout and it's a coin flip."
New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno drops puck in pregame ceremony to unveil Devils' state license plate.
Clarkson: 'We'll take one point over zero' Clarkson was involved in an odd play in the first period, when the Sabres nearly scored into their own net. With a delayed penalty coming to Dainius Zubrus, Buffalo pulled Enroth for the extra skater. They got possession in Devils territory, but wrapped the puck around the boards and it drifted all the way out toward the open cage.
Clarkson chased, but had he touched it, the play would have been whistled dead. He did his best to hold off Shaone Morrisonn's pursuit, and the puck wound up going off the right of the net.
"If I don't touch it and it goes in, it's a goal. I was just trying to shield him off and hope that puck rolled in," Clarkson explained. "Luck just didn't go our way. It hit an edge and went the other way."
Clarkson's goal snapped a five-game drought thanks to a nice set-up from Alexander Vasyunov. The Russian rookie carried behind the Buffalo net, then centered for Clarkson's second of the year at 7:58 of the second period.
"The kid played great tonight," Clarkson said. "That play he made to me, I don't even know if he saw me until the last second to make that pass right to my stick. It was a great pass. I know we've been saying this a lot, but we lose and we say there's things we can build on. I think there's little things that we can build on tonight from that. The things that didn't go well, we'll try and get better at. We'll take one point over zero."
Langenbrunner OK after collision
Langenbrunner went into the boards hard after a hook by Ennis in the second period, but reported feeling fine after the game. He notched his third of the season at 18:01 of the second, when his pass for Travis Zajac went in off the right skate of Buffalo defenseman Chris Butler.
"I just hit my head funny," Langenbrunner said. "I got a little stiff, but I'm fine."
He sympathized with Kovalchuk's shootout miss, acknowledging that no one wants Kovalchuk to rediscover his scoring touch more than Kovalchuk himself.
"You can tell, he's trying out there," said the captain. "He wants to do well every shift, every night. It's not happening for him, and I feel bad for him because he's such a good guy and wants to be the guy and it's just not happening."
Tedenby pleased with debut
Though disappointed with the outcome, Tedenby was happy with his debut. The 20-year-old was the Devils' first-round pick in 2008.
"It's a dream come true, of course," he said. "It was sad that we didn't win. I think we played a little up and down. We had some good periods in the game. But we played some very good and some very bad."
He saw 14:25 of ice time and registered one shot and one hit.
"A little bit," he said when asked if he had been nervous. "Then after a while it goes away."
Arnott set him up for a great scoring chance from the hash marks with three minutes to go in the first period.
"I should've scored there," he said. "Next time, for sure."
Arnott and Elias had unsuccessful shootout attempts. … Martin Brodeur missed his second straight game with a bruised right elbow. … New Jersey ended a five-game power-play drought and finished 1-for-2. … The Devils and Sabres close out the season series at Buffalo on March 26.
1 - 0 NJD
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 BUF
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NJD
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 NJD