The gap is still great between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, but the way the New Jersey Devils beat the Boston Bruins gave them something above and beyond two big points - a strong sense of belief.
Instead of dropping their heads and limping out of Beantown, the Devils rallied to force overtime after blowing a two-goal lead in the third period and knocked off the pacesetting Bruins 4-3 on Thursday night.
"They're the team that everybody needs to measure themselves against, and rightfully so," said Jamie Langenbrunner, who scored two goals, including the winner 1:11 into OT. "They've had a great year, and we just wanted to see if we could play with them. I think we proved a little something to ourselves tonight that if we're on top of our game we can."
The Bruins still hold an 11-point lead in the East, but now their closest pursuers are the Devils, the Atlantic Division leaders who hopped over idle Washington with the win.
Langenbrunner, who scored the game's first goal, gave the Devils their seventh consecutive victory when he swept around and put in a rebound of Colin White's shot that went off Travis Zajac. Scott Clemmensen stopped 24 shots for New Jersey.
In other NHL games Thursday, it was: Carolina 3, Tampa Bay 2; the New York Islanders 5, Atlanta 4; Florida 5, Montreal 1; Dallas 4, Detroit 2; Ottawa 3, St. Louis 1; Toronto 7, Colorado 4; San Jose 2, Phoenix 0; and Los Angeles 5, Chicago 2.
In Boston, Langenbrunner and Zach Parise scored to give the Devils a 2-0 lead after two periods, but the Bruins took their first lead on Dennis Wideman's slap shot with 6:30 left.
Tim Thomas made 26 saves for the Bruins, who lost for the fifth time in 21 games. Marc Savard had a goal and an assist, and Phil Kessel had a pair of assists in his first game after missing six with mononucleosis.
"Our guys did a good job of getting ourselves back in the game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It was a game where you really have to work hard to score goals. There wasn't a ton of pretty ones."
The Atlantic Division-leading Devils, who had given up just six goals in five games, tied it 3-3 when Patrik Elias crashed the net and knocked a pass from Brian Gionta off his skate and past Thomas with 1:45 to go in regulation.
"It was a battle of who was going to score the most goals on themselves," Thomas said.
At Sunrise, Fla., Jay Bouwmeester and Stephen Weiss scored power-play goals in the first period for the Panthers.
Radek Dvorak scored on a penalty shot and Richard Zednik and Michael Frolik also had goals for Florida, 7-1-3 in its last 11 games.
Robert Lang scored a power-play goal for Montreal, which lost its fourth straight.
At Detroit, Brad Richards had two assists a minute apart on power plays midway through the first period to lift Dallas to its third straight win.
Steve Ott, Jere Lehtinen, Chris Conner and Loui Eriksson put the Stars ahead 4-0 early in the second period.
Marian Hossa and Andreas Lilja scored for the Red Wings, 0-3-1 in the last four games.
Chris Osgood gave up two goals on the first five shots he faced and was benched after giving up three goals on 12 shots in the first period.
At Raleigh, N.C., Eric Staal scored with 1:36 remaining to help Cam Ward earn his 100th NHL victory for the Hurricanes.
Matt Cullen had a goal and an assist and Chad LaRose also scored for Carolina, which had lost six of eight.
Mark Recchi finished with a goal and an assist, and Ryan Malone also scored for Tampa Bay, which was denied its first four-game winning streak since November 2007.
At Atlanta, Kyle Okposo had his first two-goal game in the NHL, and goalie Yann Danis survived a shaky third period as New York snapped a 14-game losing streak on the road (0-13-1) with its first consecutive wins since late November.
The Thrashers, losers of three straight, dropped to 9-14-2 at home. Only the Islanders' 19 points at home are fewer than Atlanta's 20.
Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen allowed four goals on 15 shots and was chased 13:17 into the game.
At St. Louis, Peter Regin scored his first goal in the NHL with 1:57 left for Ottawa.
Mike Fisher, who had an earlier short-handed score, added an empty-net goal with 32.4 seconds remaining. Brian Elliott made 22 saves for the Senators.
Brad Winchester had the only goal for St. Louis.
At Denver, Jason Blake's goal early in the third period snapped a tie, and Dominic Moore scored twice as Toronto broke a four-game losing streak.
Nik Antropov, Mikhail Grabovski, Jeff Finger and Matt Stajan also scored for Toronto, and Vesa Toskala made 17 saves. It was the most goals the Avalanche have allowed this season.
Milan Hejduk scored twice and Chris Stewart and John-Michael Liles added goals for Colorado, which has dropped six of seven.
At Los Angeles, Dustin Brown and Jarret Stoll scored less than 2 minutes apart in the first period, Patrick O'Sullivan added a short-handed goal, and the Kings won their third straight.
Alexander Frolov scored his team-high 21st goal and Jonathan Quick made 15 of his 31 saves in the second period when Los Angeles took a 3-0 lead. Quick also earned his first NHL point.
Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell set up third-period goals by Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp.