Patrik Elias, playing in his 1,000th career ahead goal midway through the third 2.
Elias, who had a goal and two assists, joined Ken Daneyko and teammate Martin Brodeur as the only skaters to reach the 1,000-game mark as career-long Devils.
Since getting selected in the second round of the 1994 draft by the Devils, Elias has gone on to become New Jersey's all-time regular-season leader in just about every single offensive category.
Kovalchuk had two goals for the Devils, who snapped a two-game skid. Adam Henrique and Zach Parise each had a goal and an assist.
Johan Hedberg made 22 saves for the victors.
Mikael Samuelsson and Krystofer Barch lit the lamp for the Panthers, who have lost two in a row and six of eight. Jacob Markstrom turned aside 24-of-27 shots.