The Carolina Hurricanes aren't ready to give up the Southeast Division lead just yet.
One night after reclaiming first place in the division, the Hurricanes will try to increase their lead when they visit the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
|Jay Pandolfo (20) has a goal and an assist in three games since coming back from an abdominal injury. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)|
Carolina (27-26-4) beat Washington 2-1 on Friday, rebounding from consecutive losses to leap past the Capitals and back into first place in the Southeast. Washington had won eight of 12 to earn its brief division lead over Carolina, which had dropped seven of 11 heading into Friday's game.
"I'm sure there'll be a lot of jockeying going on down the stretch unless someone can peel off eight or nine in a row. ... It will probably be a lot of movement in the division, in our conference," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's just the way it's going to be. We know it. We're ready for it. This is our playoffs now."
Because the Southeast is so lackluster this season, the first-place team could be the only one from the division to reach the postseason. The Capitals fell into 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings, three points out of a playoff spot.
"You'd like to see the wins come more consistently. Win one, lose one, win two, lose two," Laviolette said. "That's not going to be good enough."
The Hurricanes will need to continue their strong play on defense, a weak spot all season, if they hope to put together a winning streak. They have allowed just 10 goals in their last five games, a vast improvement over their season average of 3.16 per game.
However, Carolina has scored just three total goals in its last three games after tallying at least three in each of the previous five games.
Erik Cole and Andrew Ladd scored first-period goals Friday for the Hurricanes, who could have a tough time building momentum in New Jersey. Carolina has lost six of its last seven games against the Devils (30-21-4).
However, New Jersey has dropped five of its last seven overall, including Friday's 2-1 defeat against Anaheim. Jay Pandolfo scored the lone goal for the Devils, who have also lost four of six at home.
Pandolfo has a goal and assist in three games since missing 28 with an abdominal injury.
New Jersey blew a chance to move into first place in the Atlantic Division, remaining one point behind both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
"It seems that we need a wakeup call," goalie Martin Brodeur said. "For whatever reason, we seem to need to get down a few goals to get our game going. We have to find ways to have better starts."
Brodeur has started 14 consecutive games and 24 of 25. The 35-year-old netminder, second all-time with 522 wins, is 29-12-0 with five ties in 46 career starts against the Hurricanes.