The New Jersey Devils survived a gutsy third period rally from the New York Islanders to preserve the victory and their season. Andy Greene’s goal with 4:56 left broke a 2-2 tie and lifted the Devils to a 3-2 win on Wednesday night keeping them mathematically alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race for at least one more day.
Tonight’s win only prolongs their inevitable ouster but for now New Jersey stayed alive in their quest for a 14th straight playoff appearance. That is the NHL’s second-longest streak behind the Detroit Red Wings 19 consecutive trips.
Entering Wednesday, any combination of three points lost by the Devils or gained by eighth-place Buffalo would finish off New Jersey for good.
The Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Rangers 1-0 to push the Devils closer to elimination.
The Devils jumped on the Islanders early to take a quick 1-0 lead. Devils winger Nick Palimieri used a couple of nifty moves to elude defensive pressure and find a wide open Ilya Kovalchuk camped out all alone for his 28th goal of the year. Kovalchuk needs two more goals to reach 30 goals for the eighth straight season.
That snapped the Devils’ streak of 178 minutes 12 seconds without a goal. It was the Devils’ first goal since a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on March 22. New Jersey was then shutout on consecutive nights by the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. The three straight losses derailed what had been an incredible second half of the season.
Rookie Jacob Josefson gave New Jersey a 2-0 lead 3:23 into the second period. Kovalchuk flipped the puck to Palmieri who fired a shot that DiPietro kicked aside. DiPietro appeared to loose sight of the the puck turning behind him to find it. With DiPietro’s back to the play, Josefson alertly raced in and pounced on the puck firing it into the wide open goal. Palmieri’s assist on the play gave his 2 points for the first multi-point game of his career.
At 7:57 of the third period Islanders defenseman Mark Katics’ pass appeared to deflect up and hit the Devils Mark Fraser by his right eye. The officials thought Fraser was hit with a high stick and gave Katic a double minor. Already leading 2-0, New Jersey had a chance to put the game away.
Instead Frans Nielsen picked off a Mattias Tedenby pass and darted in all alone on Martin Brodeur. Nielsen calmly went to his backhand and lifted the puck over a sliding Brodeur’s glove for his league-leading seventh shorthanded goal of the season.
The “shorty” gave the Islanders some life and just over four minutes later Nielsen struck again poking a loose puck passed Brodeur during a goal crease scramble. The goal was reviewed but stood up and the game was knotted at two.
But, the tie would not last for long. Patrik Elias carried the puck from his own end and fed a wide open Greene, who then wristed a shot over Rick DiPietro’s blocker and inside the left post. It was Greene’s first goal in 34 games.
Brodeur made 27 saves including a beauty with under two minutes left in the game to seal the victory and his 22nd win.
Notes: The Devils have scored 3 or more goals 28 times this season winning 23 of them. Injured winger Zach Parise is not expected to return until Saturdays game against Montreal. Anton Volchenkov and Colin White are day to day with lower body injuries.
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Devils Go Greene to Preserve Season
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