RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—The New Jersey Devils appeared to be buried and out of the Eastern Conference playoff race months, but they apparently never got the memo.
The Devils, in a desperate fight to get into playoff contention after a miserable start, are just 10 points behind the eighth-place Hurricanes after beating Carolina for the third time in 12 days.
“We took control early, for a change, because here this team is known for great starts,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “Every time they step on the ice they really skate and get on top of the other team. We were pretty lucky to get that first goal.”
Carolina remained four points ahead of Buffalo and Atlanta.
Henrik Tallinder(notes) and Brian Rolston(notes) also had first-period goals, and Patrik Elias(notes) had three assists for the 13th-place Devils (25-30-4), 15-1-2 in their past 18 games. Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) added an assist to stretch his point streak to 10 games (7 goals, 5 assists), but his four-game goal streak was snapped.
“We got beaten by a better team,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “Right out of the gate, the first six or seven minutes, penalties put us back on our heels. We beat the puck up pretty badly.”
Patrick Dwyer scored for Carolina in the third period to deny Johan Hedberg(notes) a chance at consecutive shutouts on back-to-back nights. Hedberg and the Devils beat the New York Rangers 1-0 at home Friday.
Zubrus beat Ward just 1:14 in when he deflected Mark Fayne’s(notes) hard shot from the right point. Tallinder made it 2-0 on a one-timer from the left point, with Kovalchuk earning the primary assist at 11:17.
“This team is always tough to play in this building,” Zubrus said. “We kind of knew that and wanted to match it and we were able to jump on top.”
Rolston pushed the advantage to three goals when he followed Elias’ shot from the right doorstep at 16:14.
Dwyer ended Hedberg’s shutout bid at 6:49 of the third when he redirected Jamie McBain’s(notes) shot from the high slot. That made it 3-1, but Zubrus sealed New Jersey’s win with 8:17 left by beating Ward over the left shoulder from the right circle.
“We played so strong the whole game,” Hedberg said. “We didn’t give up much.”
Notes: Devils C Travis Zajac(notes) played in his 378th straight game, 10 shy of former D Ken Daneyko’s team record. Devils D Anton Volchenkov(notes) earned his 100th career point with a first-period assist. Defenseman Derek Joslin(notes) made his Carolina debut. Hurricanes D Joni Pitkanen(notes) sat out with an undisclosed lower body injury.