New Jersey 4, NY Islanders 2

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UNIONDALE, NEW YORK (TICKER) —The New Jersey Devils opened some breathing room at the top of the Atlantic Division and prevented the New York Islanders from doing the same in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Jamie Langenbrunner and linemate Joe Nieuwendyk scored second-period goals and Martin Brodeur made a key late save as the Devils held on for their third straight win, 4-2 over the Islanders.

New Jersey has posted consecutive road victories for the first time since the end of January and leads second-place Philadelphia by four points. The Flyers were beaten Saturday afternoon by the New York Rangers, who climbed within four points of the Islanders for the final postseason spot in the East.

Asked about rooting for the Rangers during their matinee, Brodeur said, “That’s pretty rare. We scratch their back and they scratch ours.”

While the Isles have played one fewer game than the Rangers, they squandered a chance to make life even more difficult for their archrivals.

“Everyone knows what’s going on in the league. It was just a tough night for us,” Isles center Jason Blake said. “What are you going to do?”

The Devils had something to do with that, limiting the Islanders to 20 shots as they try to catch Ottawa for the top seed in the East.

“It was a typical New Jersey game, kind of ugly,” New York coach Peter Laviolette said. “There was no flow to it. We have to keep hacking. They do a good job in their zone.”

With New York’s Arron Asham in the penalty box for slashing, New Jersey scored just its third power-play goal in the last 50 chances.

Goaltender Garth Snow was down on the ice after stopping shots by Jeff Friesen and Nieuwendyk and was helpless against Langenbrunner, who wristed a shot over him from the bottom of the left faceoff circle at 10:46 of the second period.

“It’s always been an emphasis,” Langenbrunner said of the Devils’ 29th-ranked power play. “But when you’re winning, you sometimes don’t worry if you’re doing those things.”

Just 4 1/2 minutes later, Nieuwendyk squeezed a tight-angle shot from the right side between Snow’s pads for his 15th goal.

“I was surprised,” said Nieuwendyk, who ended a five-game drought. “I think it stuck in his pads and went in. It was nice to get that goal.”

The Islanders climbed within 3-2 with 6:49 to go in the third on a power-play goal by defenseman Janne Niinimaa, who ended the Devils’ penalty-killing streak at 35 chances. They had an opportunity to tie in the final minute, but Brodeur denied Dave Scatchard on a stuff attempt at the right goalpost.

“I didn’t know where the puck was,” Brodeur said. “I just swatted it out and was lucky to clear it away.”

John Madden scored into an empty net with 48 seconds left as New Jersey improved to 3-0-1 against New York this season.

“They looked a little bit tired,” Brodeur said of the Islanders, who played their fourth game in six nights. “They were a little bit passive. I can’t believe they haven’t been home since the last time we were here (on March 8).”

The Islanders returned from a 3-2-1 road trip but fell behind as Pascal Rheaume put in the rebound of Jim McKenzie’s shot at 3:18 of the first period for his seventh goal of the season and second in as many games.

Oleg Kvasha also made it goals in two straight games, tying it at 11:25 when he put a shot from along the goal line past Brodeur.

“They had more jump,” Laviolette said. “All the things that made us successful in Montreal (on Thursday) made us unsuccessful tonight.”

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