NEWARK, N.J. – Andy Greene's goal with 4:56 left snapped a tie and lifted the Devils to a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night that kept New Jersey barely alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
After the Islanders erased a 2-0 deficit on a pair of goals by Frans Nielsen 4:06 apart earlier in the period, Greene took a pass from Patrik Elias, glided into the left circle, and snapped a shot over Rick DiPietro's left pad to give the defenseman his first goal in 34 games, dating to Jan. 8.
Ilya Kovalchuk and Jacob Josefson had broken New Jersey out of its scoring slump with goals in the first and second periods, respectively.
The Devils still have the faintest of hopes of making the playoffs for the 14th straight season, the NHL's second-longest streak to Detroit. Entering Wednesday, any combination of three points lost by the Devils or gained by eighth-place Buffalo would eliminate New Jersey for the first time since 1996 — the year after the club's first of three Stanley Cup titles.
Buffalo beat the New York Rangers 1-0 to push the Devils to the brink of elimination
Martin Brodeur stopped 27 shots and had a bid for his seventh shutout of the season end when Nielsen scored his NHL-leading seventh short-handed goal with 10:22 left to cut New York's deficit in half. Brodeur had posted shutouts in two of his previous four outings — including a 1-0 shootout loss at Pittsburgh on Friday — to extend his NHL career record to 116.
Nielsen struck again with 6:16 remaining, poking in a loose puck in the crease for his 13th goal — one that stood up to a video review.
The Islanders, who were missing leading goal scorer Michael Grabner, nearly tied it again in the final 90 seconds, but Brodeur held them at bay.
Kovalchuk staked the Devils to a 1-0 lead just 4:17 in when he took a pass from Nick Palmieri — stationed on the goal line to the left of DiPietro — in the slot and fired in a one-timer for his 28th of the season.
That snapped the Devils' streak without a goal at 178 minutes, 12 seconds — a run that began three games earlier in a 4-1 loss at Boston on March 22. New Jersey had dropped three straight, including shutout losses to Buffalo and Pittsburgh that basically snuffed out any chance the Devils could make a miraculous comeback and qualify for the playoffs again.
Josefson doubled the lead 3:23 into the second with assists from Palmieri and Kovalchuk. After taking a feed from Kovalchuk, Palmieri unloaded a drive from the slot that DiPietro kicked out with his pad. But DiPietro lost sight of the puck, even turning around to see if it was behind him. While the goalie was facing away from the middle of the ice, Josefson raced in and found the puck in front and scored easily into the open right side.
DiPietro made 17 saves for the Islanders, who were eliminated from postseason contention on Saturday.
NOTES: Grabner, the rookie forward who has 31 goals, was scratched shortly before the game because of the impending birth of his child with his girlfriend. ... Devils LW Zach Parise, who has played in only 12 games this season because of a knee injury, hopes to return to the lineup Saturday. ... The Islanders agreed to terms with D Matt Donovan on an entry-level contract and assigned him to Bridgeport of the AHL for the rest of the season.