It was only Wednesday afternoon that Dev­ils coach Pete DeBoer lauded Ilya Kovalchuk for doing the “lit­tle things” that were helping the team win and insisted that the goals would come for the star winger if he continued.

DeBoer proved prophetic Thursday night as Kovalchuk ended a six-game goal drought with the go-ahead short-handed tally in the Devils’ 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Pruden­tial Center.

Demonstrating his all-around game on the penalty kill, Ko­valchuk snapped a 1-1 tie by scoring on a two-on-one rush with 2:26 left in the second peri­od. Kovalchuk also assisted on Patrik Elias’ five-on-three power­play goal in the third period as the Devils ran their winning streak to three games.

“I wasn’t worried about Kovy,” DeBoer said. “You know it’s just a matter of time with him. He could have had four tonight if he hadn’t been unselfish at the end and tried to set everybody up. But that’s him. I know the guys in the room appreciate what he’s about. He does a lot of things to help us win games other than to score goals, and tonight he scored a big one.” Elias had his second consecutive three­point game with a goal and two assists. Adam Henrique and Andy Greene also scored goals. That was plenty for goal­tender Martin Brodeur, who needed to make only 17 saves.

The Devils’ penalty kill complemented their power play nicely by killing off all four Lightning power plays to run its string to 19 kills in a row.