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Depth keeps Devils' playoff hopes alive in 3-1 win over Hurricanes

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. - It wasn't an ideal situation, but the New Jersey Devils were forced to show their depth Saturday night.

Turns out, they had plenty enough.

Center Dainius Zubrus scored two goals as the injury-riddled Devils mustered a 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

"A lot of people are writing us off, but these guys are going to believe," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. "It was a gritty effort by our depth."

Defenseman Marek Zidlicky also scored for New Jersey, which has a season-high seven-game points streak as it tries to move into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Zidlicky's score was the go-ahead goal in the second period.

Zubrus sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 37.9 seconds left.

The outcome sent the Hurricanes, who had at least one team point in their previous five games to match their longest string of the season in that category, to the brink of elimination from playoff contention.

"There's no excuses," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "You win or lose and you get out of it what you put into it. ... It's mathematically (possible) so that's why you have to keep pushing."

Forward Jeff Skinner scored Carolina's goal in the second period.

Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, playing in his fifth consecutive game, had 26 saves.

"He has been excellent," DeBoer said. "You need big performances this time of the year and we're getting them."

Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin made 20 stops.

New Jersey was without left winger Patrik Elias, center Adam Henrique and center Jacob Josefson, all dinged up Friday night against Washington. Right winger Stephen Gionta was among those filling in to give the Devils some solid play.

"We played well," Devils center Travis Zajac said. "We were engaged. We had good focus. We responded well when they scored."

The Devils skated with a spark in the early going despite playing a night earlier.

That development perturbed Muller.

"They came in here and outworked us and that can't happen," Muller said. "Some guys did (play with desperation). We just didn't have everybody."

It was the sixth time in the last 10 games that Carolina failed to register at least 30 shots on goal.

Zubrus notched his second goal in three games courtesy of a Carolina turnover.

Skinner's 31st goal 4:50 into the second period tied his career-high total set three seasons ago as a rookie.

Less than two minutes later, Zidlicky converted for the Devils.

New Jersey is 29-6-8 when scoring first this season.

"We've been picking up points and we've been playing some good hockey," Zajac said.

The Hurricanes went 0-for-4 on power plays, though Skinner's tally came three seconds after a penalty expired.

There were stretches when the Hurricanes appeared to string together good shifts but those didn't pan out with what was needed most. After back-to-back games with four goals, Carolina went through tough times around the net.

"There's a lot of things you see (that can be positive), which can be as frustrating as they are motivating," defenseman Jay Harrison said.

Carolina has killed off 23 of 24 power plays across a 10-game period.

NOTES: New Jersey RW Tuomo Ruutu made his first appearance on the visiting team in Raleigh since his March 5 trade to New Jersey. He was in the starting lineup. ... The Devils were without LW Patrik Elias (head) and C Adam Henrique (undisclosed). Henrique, who has a team-leading 25 goals, had played in all 77 previous games this season. ... LW Drayson Bowman missed his second game in a row with illness despite being on hand for the morning skate. ... Hurricanes D Justin Faulk entered with a two-game goals streak for the first time in his career. ... D Ryan Murphy was recalled to the Hurricanes from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. The Hurricanes sent LW Zach Boychuk and C Chris Terry to Charlotte. Terry had two assists on Thursday night against the Dallas Stars for his only two points in 10 games with the Hurricanes this season. ... The Devils return home for Monday night's game against the Calgary Flames. ... The Hurricanes, who have one home game remaining, next play Tuesday night at the New York Rangers.
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