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Playoff Pulse: Devils move into fourth in East

Monday, 02.20.2012 / 1:06 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Playoff Pulse: Devils move into fourth in East
The New Jersey Devils continue to find ways to win hockey games and climb up the standings in the Eastern Conference.
The New Jersey Devils continue to find ways to win hockey games and climb up the standings in the Eastern Conference.

The Devils scored late in both the first and second periods Sunday night and hung on for a 3-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. With its third straight win, New Jersey (34-20-4) jumped ahead of both the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in the standings.

Martin Brodeur made 21 saves for the Devils and improved his record against Montreal to 43-18-5.

By moving into fourth place in the East, the Devils would have home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs if the season ended today.

In the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks continued their surge and pulled within five points of the final playoff spot with a 2-0 win at Florida. Meanwhile, Minnesota also picked up two valuable points with its impressive 2-0 win against Boston at the Xcel Energy Center.

Here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Sunday's games:

Eastern Conference

Division leaders

New York Rangers (81 points after Sunday's 3-2 win against Columbus) extended their lead in the conference as Derek Stepan beat Steve Mason just 22 seconds into overtime at Madison Square Garden. Rick Nash, who has been rumored in a potential trade to New York, sent the game to overtime when he scored with 1:33 left in regulation. The Blueshirts return to action on Tuesday night at Pittsburgh.

Boston (72 points after Sunday's 2-0 loss at Minnesota) finds itself nine points back of the Rangers as they were shut out by the Wild. The Bruins continue their six-game road trip -- they are 1-2-0 thus far -- on Wednesday night at St. Louis.

Florida (65 points after Sunday's 2-0 loss to Anaheim) also came up empty, both on the scoreboard and in the standings. The Panthers peppered Jonas Hiller with 31 shots, but the Ducks' goaltender stopped them all. Florida's lead atop the Southeast Division was cut to one point due to Winnipeg's victory against Colorado later in the night. The Panthers are idle until Thursday, when they'll host Minnesota.

The next five:

New Jersey (72 points after Sunday's 3-1 win at Montreal) moved into fourth place in the East with another big win against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre. The Devils, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10, will visit Toronto on Tuesday night.

Philadelphia (71 points) did not play Sunday, but the Flyers now find themselves in fifth place thanks to New Jersey's victory. The Flyers will visit Winnipeg on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh (71 points after Sunday's 6-2 loss at Buffalo) struggled mightily at the First Niagara Center on Sunday and fell into sixth place. Brent Johnson was pulled after allowing 3 goals on 12 shots and saw his record drop to 3-7-2. The Pens will host the Rangers on Tuesday night.

Ottawa (68 points) has been off since Wednesday, but the Sens will return to action on Monday afternoon against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Toronto (64 points) was also idle Sunday. The Leafs will face the Devils on Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.

On the outside looking in:

Winnipeg (64 points after Sunday's 5-1 win against Colorado) pulled even in the points department as Toronto after cruising past the Avalanche at the MTS Centre. However, the Leafs remain in eighth place since they have two games in hand on the Jets. Winnipeg will host Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Washington (63 points) did not play Sunday, but fell into 10th place thanks to Winnipeg's victory. The Caps are one of four teams in action Monday, as they will visit the Carolina Hurricanes.

Tampa Bay (58 points) was also off Sunday. The Lightning will host Anaheim at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday.

New York Islanders (58 points) enjoyed a day off Sunday. The Isles can pull within four points of Toronto on Monday afternoon, when they will host Ottawa.

Montreal (58 points after Sunday's 3-1 loss to New Jersey) missed an opportunity to earn valuable points in the standings against the Devils. The Canadiens will attempt to bounce back on Tuesday, when they face the Dallas Stars at the Bell Centre.

Western Conference

Division leaders:

Detroit (84 points after Sunday's 3-2 win against San Jose) extended its NHL-record home winning streak to 23 games with a victory against the Sharks. Joey MacDonald has taken the goaltending reins in Jimmy Howard's absence and has won six in a row. The Wings will visit Chicago on Tuesday.

Vancouver (82 points after Sunday's 5-2 win at Edmonton) kept pace with the Red Wings by cruising past the Oilers at Rexall Place. The Canucks -- who are now a remarkable 182-3-12 since 2006-07 when entering the third period with a lead -- will visit Nashville on Tuesday.

San Jose (69 points after Sunday's 3-2 loss at Detroit) continued its nine-game trip in Detroit on Sunday and failed to pick up any points in the standings. The Sharks, who are in the midst of a stretch that features five games in eight days in five different cities, will visit Columbus on Tuesday.

The next five:

St. Louis (79 points after Sunday's 3-1 loss at Chicago)
held a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes, but allowed three goals in the third period against the Blackhawks, and Brian Elliot's shutout streak ended at 163:53. The Blues, who play 15 of their last 23 on the road, host Boston on Wednesday before beginning a six-game road trip.

Nashville (74 points after Sunday's 3-2 win at Dallas) moved within five points of St. Louis with a victory against the Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Preds, who are 16-1-2 when leading after the first period, will host Vancouver on Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena.

Chicago (71 points after Sunday's 3-1 win against St. Louis) continued its resurgence by rallying for three third-period goals to beat the Blues at the United Center. Chicago, which has now won three straight after a long slump, will host Detroit on Tuesday.

Phoenix (67 points) was idle Sunday. The Coyotes will host Los Angeles at Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday night.

Calgary (65 points) was also off Sunday. The Flames return to action on Tuesday night against Edmonton at Scotiabank Saddledome.

On the outside looking in:

Los Angeles (65 points)
did not play Sunday. The Kings will aim to avoid a three-game skid on Tuesday night at Phoenix.

Dallas (62 points after Sunday's 3-2 loss to Nashville) failed to earn any points as it came up short against the Preds. The Stars -- who are now 0-9-2 in the second game of back-to-backs, will visit Montreal on Tuesday.

Colorado (62 points after Sunday's 5-1 loss at Winnipeg) also came up empty as the Avs were crushed by the Jets at the MTS Centre. Colorado is now off until Wednesday night, when it will host Los Angeles at the Pepsi Center.

Minnesota (61 points after Sunday's 2-0 win against Boston) inched a bit closer thanks to Niklas Backstrom, who put on a show in front of a nationally-televised audience in a 48-save shutout. The Wild, who inked Kyle Brodziak to a three-year extension after the game, will visit Florida on Thursday night.

Anaheim (60 points after Sunday's 2-0 win at Florida) now finds itself just five points out of a playoff spot despite an abysmal start to the season. The Ducks continue their eight-game road trip on Tuesday at Tampa Bay.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

Quote of the Day

I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world. I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances.

— Stars forward Rich Peverley to "The Musers" radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas