The top of the Eastern Conference is awfully crowded, but the New Jersey Devils are hoping to do something about that.
The surging Devils seek their seventh win in eight games on Sunday when they visit the Washington Capitals.
New Jersey (36-21-5) beat the New York Islanders 4-2 on Saturday, improving to 6-0-1 over their last seven games. Zach Parise’s team-leading 25th goal snapped a third-period tie for the Devils, who have outscored opponents 15-7 during a four-game win streak.
The victory moved New Jersey into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of Pittsburgh. The Penguins lost 4-3 in overtime to Ottawa on Saturday.
The Devils are also one point behind the Senators for the best record in the Eastern Conference. They are one of four teams within five points of the top spot in the conference.
“It’s kind of hard to look at the standings and see how close everything is and how big every point you get is,” coach Brent Sutter told the Devils’ official Web site. “For us to accumulate points, we have to play the way we have been playing.”
The Devils have scored at least three goals in each of their last six games. They were 4-6-1 in their previous 11 contests before their current seven-game run.
“We just got in a funk there for a little while,” said Brian Gionta, who also scored against the Islanders. “We gave up some points we didn’t want to in that home stretch, but we finished pretty strong.”
Martin Brodeur made 19 saves in his 21st straight start and picked up his NHL-leading 34th win. Brodeur is 31-11-0 with four ties and a 2.09 goals-against average in 47 career games against the Capitals, including 11-1-0 with a tie and a 1.89 GAA in his last 13.
“We had a streak earlier where we had won nine games in a row,” Sutter said. “The mindset was good then, but it’s better now. Part of it has to do with what time of the year it is. We’ve gone through some adversity here, two or three weeks ago, and we fought through that. Everyone dug in.”
The Devils have won eight of their last 10 matchups with the Capitals (28-27-7). They lost 3-2 in Washington on Dec. 10 in the most recent meeting, ending a four-game road winning streak in the series.
The Devils are 4-0-1 in their last five road games.
Washington is vying for control of a tight Southeast Division, but lost 6-3 on Saturday to first-place Carolina. Mike Green, Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich scored for the Capitals, who fell six points behind the Hurricanes.
“The standings are going to change a thousand times before the end of the year,” defenseman Tom Poti said. “We just have to keep going out and playing and getting wins. We’ve got to put this behind us and not think about it again.”
The Capitals, who fell to 2-1-2 over their last five games, allowed four power-play goals after killing off all 22 man-advantage chances in their previous six games. They have scored a power-play goal in each of their last three contests.
Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin had three assists Saturday after he went without a point in his previous three games - a season high. Ovechkin, the NHL leader with 48 goals, has scored only once in his last seven games against New Jersey.