Kovalchuk notched his sixth of the season. (Getty/NHL Images)
The Minnesota Wild didn't need long to send Martin Brodeur back to the bench -- and put themselves back on top of the NHL standings.
The Wild scored on three of their first four shots Friday night, sending Brodeur to the bench just 8:17 after the opening faceoff on the way to a 4-2 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
Dany Heatley, Kyle Brodziak and Casey Wellman scored in a 3:03 span to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead. Wellman's goal was the end of the night for Brodeur, who was replaced by Johan Hedberg.
"It's been two games now for me with a tough start," said Brodeur, who allowed three first-period goals and six overall in a 6-1 loss at Colorado on Wednesday. "The puck doesn't want to hit me."
Brodziak sealed the win with his second goal of the night and eighth of the season with 3:36 left in regulation. Niklas Backstrom made seven saves in the first period, and Josh Harding, who played the final two periods, stopped all 22 shots he faced for Minnesota (16-7-3), which moved back into first place in the overall standings, one point ahead of Pittsburgh. The Wild won for the 10th time in 16 games when allowing the first goal -- they won only eight such games all last season.
"We had a great start, something we haven't had a lot of lately. The place was rocking," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I do think that when you score three goals like that -- bang, bang, bang -- it is a little tough to keep your focus and your same mentality."
Zach Parise scored 2:54 into the game to give the Devils the lead, but the Wild wasted little time taking command. Heatley raced down the right side and beat Brodeur just 20 seconds later to get the Wild even at 1-1.
Brodziak gave Minnesota the lead when he knocked in the rebound of his shot over a sprawled Brodeur at 6:55, and just 1:22 later, Wellman tipped in Matt Cullen's shot to make it 3-1.
"I think it’s our job as goalies to make saves at the right time to weather a storm or whatever and I didn’t do it." Brodeur said after losing to the Wild for just the second time in 11 career decisions.
It was the second-shortest outing of his career -- slightly longer than his eight-minute stint in Carolina on Jan. 1. Brodeur has allowed 12 goals on 55 shots in his last three games.
Coach Peter DeBoer wasn't blaming his goaltender for the Devils' poor start.
“I relooked at the goals and I don’t think he could have done much on (them)," said DeBoer, who nonetheless opted to change goaltenders. "It was the second game in a row that we've started with three goals on five or six shots so I think everybody has to take responsibility, including me, for not coming out of the gate better."
Backstrom's night wasn't much longer than Brodeur's. After he stopped seven of nine shots in the opening 20 minutes -- Ilya Kovalchuk made it a 3-2 game at 13:59 -- Backstrom was replaced by Josh Harding to start the second period. He was back on the bench midway through the period; the team said he was lifted due to "a minor lower-body issue."
The Devils kept Harding busy, controlling the play for much of the last two periods.
"Clearly it wasn't our best game, but some credit has to go to New Jersey," Yeo said. "We knew we were playing a desperate team -- they got embarrassed in their last game, and we knew they were going to come in here with a great effort.
"Our execution wasn't great, but we got a good two points before we head out on a five-game road trip."
Hedberg kept the Devils in the game by stopping Mikko Koivu on a breakaway in the final seconds of the second period. Harding made his best stop with just over five minutes left in regulation, getting just enough of a shot by Kovalchuk to keep the puck out of the net.
"You've got to be ready as a backup goalie when they give you a chance," Harding said. "Backy has put the bar pretty high and I've got to step in there and do the job."
With both teams playing a man down, Brodziak put the game away when he picked up a loose puck at center ice, drove to the net and fired a shot past Hedberg's glove, cementing the Devils' third consecutive loss.
"I thought we deserved better tonight," Parise said. "We played much better than we did in Colorado, but we just hit a tough little stretch there where we gave them all three of them."
"It seems like right now when we make mistakes it's in the back of our net. Mistakes are going to happen in the game, it's just right now they're going in the back of our net."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
1 - 0 NJD
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 MIN
3 - 1 MIN
3 - 2 MIN
4 - 2 MIN
Interference on goalkeeper