While the New Jersey Devils are hanging around in the playoff race, they are not making up much ground.
Devils defenseman Andy Greene scored the go-ahead goal on a power play and Kyle Palmieri converted on an odd-man rush with Taylor Hall to lead New Jersey over the struggling Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Tuesday night.
The win was the Devils' fourth in six games (4-1-1), but they remain five points out of a postseason spot. They are almost as close to the bottom of the standings in the Eastern Conference.
"You don't want to lose two in a row ever, especially this time of year with the homestand," goaltender Cory Schneider said after making 28 saves. "If you get off to an 0-2 start out of the break, you're chasing. It was a game we needed to win and we were ready to play."
The win came just two days after the Devils were beaten at home by San Jose. It was also one New Jersey needed against the NHL's worst team.
"They're on the board every day when you come in," Palmieri said of the standings. "Everything is so close. You can't pick and choose and hypothetically go over things in your head. You just have to focus on the things that happen in this room."
Jeremy Smith stopped 37 shots in his NHL debut after seven seasons in the minor leagues. Recent waiver pickup Mark Barberio and Mikhail Grigorenko scored for Colorado, which has lost four straight and is 4-22-1 in its last 27 games.
"I thought he was fantastic; the best player by a country mile," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of Smith, who will turn 28 in April.
The win was only the Devils' second against Colorado in 11 meetings.
Greene, who had his streak of 350 consecutive games played snapped on Jan. 6, scored his first goal since Dec. 3 with a shot from the left point. It came after Travis Zajac won a faceoff three seconds after Andreas Martinsen was penalized for hooking.
The goal at 8:55 of the second period was initially waived off because the officials thought Miles Wood interfered with Smith. The Devils challenged the call and the ruling was overturned after the replay showed the interference came after the puck was in the net.
"I thought that was a good goal all day," Bednar said.
Palmieri stretched the lead to 3-1 at 16:25 of the second period. He picked up a loose puck at center ice, sent it to Hall and then took a return pass in close for a shot into an open net.
"Some guys would kind of quit on a play after they make a pass on a 2-on-1, but Kyle followed it up to the net and that's huge," Hall said.
Grigorenko cut it to 3-2 with 1:26 left in the period. Matt Duchene stole the puck in the Devils end and found the forward between the circles for his sixth goal.
Smith, who kept Colorado in the game, gave up a goal 2:04 after the opening faceoff.
A turnover in the Avalanche end set up Jacob Josefson for a shot from the right circle. Smith knocked it down with his glove and made a stop on a rebound in close by Stefan Noesen, but had no chance on a backhand by Pavel Zacha .
"I think I played pretty well," Smith said. "A couple of things I could have done different to give myself a better chance to make saves, but I think there are a lot of good things you can take from the game."
Barberio tied it with a power-play goal at 6:43 of the second. The former Montreal Canadiens player took a great cross-ice pass from Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog for a shot into an open net.
NOTES: Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard got the night off after playing in five straight games and seven of eight. ... Devils D Jon Merrill was activated and returned to the lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury. ... The 24-year-old Landeskog played in his 400th NHL game. ... Barberio's previous goal came against Minnesota on March 12 last season.
Avalanche: At the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night in the fourth stop on a five-game road trip, their longest of the season.
Devils: Host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.