In the opener of a home-and-home series on Thursday, the New Jersey Devils continued their regular-season dominance of the Carolina Hurricanes and kept themselves within striking distance of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Devils look to sweep the season series with the Hurricanes when the teams conclude their home-and-home set on Saturday in New Jersey.
Carolina beat New Jersey 4-1 in the second round of the playoffs last season en route to the Stanley Cup, but that’s about all the success the Hurricanes (35-29-8) have had against the Devils (43-20-8) lately.
New Jersey has won five straight and 10 of the last 13 regular-season meetings between the teams. The Devils beat the Hurricanes 3-2 on the road Thursday, as Martin Brodeur made 38 saves to improve to 3-0-0 against Carolina this season.
“Marty was outstanding obviously,” Devils coach Claude Julien said. “We had to have a lot of guys step up for us to make that happen, and Marty was definitely one of those guys.”
The Devils have won three of their past four games and remain atop the Atlantic Division. They are battling Buffalo for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, something New Jersey hasn’t had since 2000-01, when it lost to Colorado in the Stanley Cup finals.
“We kept things simple,” Brodeur said. “We’re fortunate that we’re not fighting for our lives right now. Right now, we just have to play solid and keep our game together.”
New Jersey is 22-9-5 at home, but after an outstanding start to the season at Continental Airlines Arena, the Devils have lost four straight there, their longest home losing streak since a five-game slide from Nov. 4-14, 2000.
After Saturday, the Devils leave for a five-game road trip, with four contests against teams currently battling for playoff spots.
Carolina is among a bunch of teams fighting for the last few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, but hasn’t been able to string consecutive wins together this month, having split their last six games.
“I liked the way we came out,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday. “We had good steam, and in the end, we just couldn’t beat their goaltender.”
The Hurricanes played without starting goalie Cam Ward, who suffered a leg laceration that required 11 stitches in Sunday’s shootout loss to the New York Rangers. He’s missed the last two games, with John Grahame starting in his place. Grahame made 26 saves in a win over Florida on Wednesday, but allowed three goals on 25 shots Thursday.
“The last goal was unfortunate, I think,” Laviolette said. “It kind of took the wind out of our sails, but in the end, it kind of got us going as well.”
Carolina has lost three of its past four on the road.