While they're almost guaranteed to miss the playoffs, the New Jersey Devils (35-36-5) refuse to go down without a fight. New Jersey defeated the New York Islanders, 3-2, to remain alive in the playoff race.
The Buffalo Sabres defeated the New York Rangers, 1-0, last night to trim the number to eliminate the Devils to one point - either lost by New Jersey or gained by Buffalo.
Missing the playoffs is a foregone conclusion, but the Devils want to end their season strong.
"Even though the playoffs are out of reach, that doesn't mean you can't win games," goaltender Martin Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record.
Andy Greene snapped a 2-2 tie with 4:56 remaining in the third period. Greene skated down from the slot, taking a pass from Patrik Elias in the slot. The defenseman beat Rick DiPietro over his pads for his fourth goal of the season. It snapped a streak of 34 straight games without a goal.
"Patty made a great play there," Greene told Gulitti. "He saw the hole and made a great backhand pass there. I saw the opening, but at the same time you're trying to make sure you hit the net for a good rebound, too."
New Jersey's offense finally came alive, scoring three goals for the first time since Sunday's 3-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. In their past three losses, they scored one goal and spent 173 minutes and 55 seconds without a goal, a franchise record.
Ilya Kovalchuk broke the scoreless streak at 4:17 of the first period, staking New Jersey to a 1-0 lead. Nick Palmieri found Kovalchuk with a pass, and the left-winger fired it past DiPietro for his 28th goal of the season.
New Jersey felt relieved after finally breaking their scoreless streak.
"After not scoring in two games it's considerable," Palmieri told Gulitti. "That was obviously a big focus coming into tonight, to score some goals and scoring early in the first definitely gave us a confidence boost."
Jacob Josefson stretched the lead to 2-0 at 3:23 of the second period. Palmieri blasted a shot on net that DiPietro blocked away with his pads. The rebound skipped out, and the Islanders goalie lost sight of the puck, turning around to check if it went in. Josefson raced in and tapped the puck into the open net for his third goal of the season.
The 2-0 lead wouldn't last, as Frans Nielsen brought the Islanders back into the game. He broke Brodeur's shutout at 9:38 of the third period, scoring on a shorthanded breakaway. He tied the game at 13:44 of the final frame, scoring a goal that appeared to deflect off Palmieri's stick and into the net.
Greene's goal saved the Devils and kept their playoff hopes alive, if only for a short time.
"It was kind of nice for Greenie to come in and score a big goal to relieve the pressure a little bit," Brodeur said to the Associated Press. "They still got some at the end and we were able to hold on."
Brodeur finished with 27 saves in the win. DiPietro finished with 17 saves in the loss.
Even with the playoffs all but out of the question, the Devils want to continue their impressive second half.
"We have to play for our fans," Kovalchuk told Gulitti. "We've been playing pretty good in the second half. It seems like it's not going to be enough, but we've still got to push to the end."
Palmieri recorded the first multi-point game of his career...Defenseman Colin White and Anton Volchenkov missed the game with lower body injuries...David Clarkson and Zenon Konopka fought at 1:57 of the first period...