RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The New Jersey Devils had to work as hard to reach the playoffs this season as they've ever had to before.
So it was no surprise that the Devils had to go to overtime to finally wrap up a ninth straight postseason berth.
Brian Gionta scored a power-play goal 28 seconds into overtime to give the Devils a 4-3 victory over Carolina on Tuesday night.
"I tell you what, if there is any team we've had that deserves to get into the playoffs, and we've had some great ones, (it's) this team," Devils coach Lou Lamoriello said. "The way they responded in the whole second half of the season and overcame so many little things."
Martin Brodeur made 37 saves to help the Devils stretch their winning streak to eight games and become the first NHL goalie to win 40 games in five different seasons. The All-Star is 40-23-7.
"We knew time was on our side when there were disappointing times," Brodeur said. "But we've turned it around and this was really rewarding."
Gionta's power-play goal - his team-leading 45th goal of the season - capped a wild ending, with both teams scoring in the final 5 minutes of regulation and New Jersey locking up its playoff spot when the game went to overtime.
Gionta said the puck struck his stick between his hands off a shot from Scott Gomez, accounting for the winning goal.
Carolina's Eric Staal scored his team-leading 45th goal of the season with 46 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime after the Hurricanes pulled goalie Martin Gerber for an extra attacker. The Devils, though, didn't panic.
"Every night has been a playoff game for us," Lamoriello said. "It's a reward to the players who kept their focus and their commitment to each other." Lamoriello, the team president and general manager who replaced Larry Robinson behind the bench in December.
"It took awhile," Gomez said. "A lot of people kind of counted us out at the beginning. It took us a little longer than we wanted, but it's an honor to make the playoffs."
New Jersey's Jamie Langenbrunner scored a power-play goal with 4:27 remaining in the third period to put the Devils ahead 3-2. Langenbrunner has scored in three consecutive games and four of his 17 goals this season have come during the current winning streak.
The Hurricanes are trying to land the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs. They entered the game in position to do so if they won their final four games regardless of what the Ottawa Senators do.
"We played a pretty decent game and to lose like that at the end is tough," Hurricanes right wing Mark Recchi said. "But we got a point. Look at the positives and make sure we stay focused on the right things and move forward from this."
John Madden scored late in the second period to give the Devils a 2-1 lead.
Madden's slap shot skipped off the arm of Gerber to snap a 1-1 tie. Madden has four goals in the last nine games.
But Recchi scored with 11:43 remaining, slapping in a rebound from Doug Weight's shot that hit the left post. It was his third goal since joining the Hurricanes last month in a trade with Pittsburgh.
New Jersey's Grant Marshall scored less than 90 seconds into the game, producing his eighth goal of the season and ending a 25-game stretch without a goal. Marshall also assisted on Madden's goal.
Carolina's Craig Adams tied it at 1-1 later in the first period.
"I have no problem with the way we played," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "I have a problem with the result. We were a little soft on defense and it cost us."
Notes: The Hurricanes had a two-game home winning streak end. They are 31-8-1 at home. ... The Devils have secured at least one point in their last six road games. ... Former Carolina G Arturs Irbe, one of the stars of the franchise's 2002 playoff run to the Stanley Cup finals, attended the game.
|Grant Marshall (8) ASST: John Madden (20), Jay Pandolfo (10)|
1 - 0 NJD
|Craig Adams (10) ASST: Kevyn Adams (8), Frantisek Kaberle (38)|
1 - 1 Tie
|John Madden (16) ASST: Grant Marshall (17), Paul Martin (32)|
2 - 1 NJD
|Mark Recchi (28) ASST: Doug Weight (41)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Jamie Langenbrunner (17) ASST: Patrik Elias (24), Brian Gionta (36)|
3 - 2 NJD
|SHG - Eric Staal (45) ASST: Bret Hedican (20), Rod Brind'Amour (38)|
3 - 3 Tie
|PPG - Brian Gionta (45) ASST: Scott Gomez (47), Patrik Elias (25)|
4 - 3 NJD
|Josef Vasicek Tripping against Sergei Brylin|
|Doug Weight Hi-sticking against Patrik Elias|
|Brad Lukowich Interference against Josef Vasicek|
|Rod Brind'Amour Interference on goalkeeper against Martin Brodeur|
|Jamie Langenbrunner Tripping against Glen Wesley|
|Justin Williams Tripping against Martin Brodeur|
|Matt Cullen Holding against Jamie Langenbrunner|