After losing six straight games, New Jersey was victorious Friday in a near must-win situation.
Now the Devils will try to build some momentum heading into the final week of the regular season as they travel to Buffalo on Saturday night to face a Sabres club fighting for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
New Jersey (48-26-4), which leads Philadelphia by six points for the Atlantic Division lead, arrives at HSBC Arena after snapping its longest skid in 23 seasons, defeating Tampa Bay 5-4 in overtime.
“Since I’ve been here, it’s one of the toughest times I’ve seen,” said fourth-year left wing Zach Parise, who snapped a three-game scoreless streak with a goal and two assists. “This stuff happens—things don’t go your way.”
In overtime, though, it did as Parise scored the game-winner off a pass from Travis Zajac and helped the Devils avoid their first seven-game slide since dropping eight in a row from Dec. 19, 1985-Jan.6, 1986.
In the teams’ last meeting in Buffalo, Parise scored a goal as New Jersey snapped a three-game losing streak to the Sabres in a 5-3 victory on Dec. 17.
Jamie Langenbrunner had two assists in that win. The veteran right wing recorded two goals and an assist versus the Lightning as the Devils reached the 100-point plateau for the fifth time in six seasons.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction,” New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said. “It hasn’t been a pleasant feeling around here for a couple of weeks.”
The Devils trail Southeast Division champion Washington by two points for the second seed after Buffalo (38-30-9) defeated the Capitals 5-4 in overtime on Friday.
“We needed this win,” he said after extending his point streak to eight games with a goal and an assist. “We found a way.”
Pominville has a goal and two assists as the Sabres have won two of three against the Devils this season—both victories coming in New Jersey.
The Sabres still trail Florida by two points for the ninth seed, but return home where they’ve won five of their last seven.
Buffalo will likely face Martin Brodeur for the first time this season. The four-time Vezina Trophy winner missed the three previous matchups due to a torn biceps muscle in his left elbow that sidelined him for 50 games.
Brodeur was supposed to rest Friday, but entered the game with 19:02 left in the second period as Kevin Weekes injured his left leg on a save attempt.
“We played good enough,” said Brodeur, who is 0-5-1 with a 3.65 GAA in his last six starts and stopped only seven of 10 shots in Friday’s win. “We can’t go out and play like that every night and think we’re going to win a lot of games.”
Brodeur is 12-3-1 with a tie in his last 17 starts versus Buffalo.
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller made 33 saves against the Capitals and improved to 3-0-1 since returning March 27 from an 13-game absence with a sprained left ankle.
He is 1-1-0 with a 2.53 GAA against New Jersey this season.
Five of the last six matchups between the teams in Buffalo have been decided by one goal.