It's been a tale of two seasons for Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils (24-30-4).
New Jersey continued its second half revitalization, blanking the rival New York Rangers, 1-0, Friday night at the Prudential Center.
Kovalchuk, who struggled during the first half of the season, broke a scoreless tie in the second period. Rangers defenseman Marc Staal lost the puck along the Devils blue line, and Kovalchuk broke into the Rangers zone alone. His shot beat Henrik Lundqvist for Kovalchuk's 21st goal of the season.
"It (the puck) was coming to my stick, towards my left skate, but it took a weird bounce past my right skate and I couldn't stop it," Staal told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record.
It was his fourth straight game with a goal and his seventh game-winner of the season.
Despite being 27 points out of a playoff spot on January 8, the Devils are making a miraculous push to the postseason. They're 13-1-2 in their past 16 games, and have currently won six straight games.
Eight of their last nine games have been decided by one goal. In those games, the Devils are 8-0-1.
Their success has New Jersey believing they can make the playoffs.
"We are believing," Jason Arnott said. "We know it's a long shot and it's still far away but belief is everything. We have a lot of confidence going in here."
Johan Hedberg stopped 16 shots for his second shutout of the season and 16th of his career.
Despite the win, the Devils remain 12 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey will face Carolina for the final time this season tomorrow night.