Newark, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - Ryan Carter scored the game-winner with 4:54 remaining, as the New Jersey Devils downed the Washington Capitals, 2-1, in a crucial Eastern Conference clash on Friday at Prudential Center.
Tuomo Ruutu recorded New Jersey's other goal and Cory Schneider stopped 24 shots for the Devils, who picked up at least one point for the sixth straight game (3-0-3) to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"It was a gutsy win for us," Schneider said. "That was a pretty signature win for us. Hopefully it's not too late."
With the win, New Jersey leapfrogged Washington in the East standings and moved within three points of Columbus for the second wild-card spot. The Blues Jackets, who lost to Chicago on Friday, have 85 points, followed by Toronto with 84.
Washington, meanwhile, lost its fifth straight game, despite a 29-save effort from Jaroslav Halak. Alex Ovechkin supplied his 49th goal of the season for the Capitals, who sit four points back of the Blue Jackets with just five games to play.
"It's obviously difficult to swallow a loss," Washington head coach Adam Oates said. "We played a good game, good hockey game. We only gave them two goals. A lot of good things in the game."
With the game tied 1-1 late in the third, Carter and Marek Zidlicky worked a give-and-go through the neutral zone that ended up with the puck on Carter's stick in the high slot.
The 30-year-old winger then made his way in between the circles before rifling a wrister past the glove of Halak for a 2-1 lead at 15:06.
Schneider stood tall between the pipes down the stretch to maintain New Jersey's one-goal edge.
Early on, Ovechkin opened the scoring just past the midway point of the first after the Devils turned the puck over deep in their own end. The Washington captain beat Schneider blocker side from the inner half of the left circle at 10:12 to make it 1-0 Washington.
The Devils failed to capitalize on a Joel Ward double-minor early in the second, but got an even-strength goal to tie the tilt with 7:39 left in the period.
Eric Gelinas threw a shot on net from the left point that tipped off Ruutu's stick before sailing high over Halak's shoulder to make it 1-1.
Ovechkin, who entered the game with a league-worst minus-36 rating, snapped a string of 16 straight games without scoring a goal at even strength ... New Jersey's Patrik Elias was checked hard in the first period and did not return ... Washington's Nicklas Backstrom recorded his 60th assist of the season ... New Jersey went 0-for-5 on the power play.