Given their success at the Prudential Center this season, the New Jersey Devils
realize the importance of landing home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On Wednesday night, they took one step closer to achieving their goal.
was the lone scorer in a four-round shootout, as the Devils inched closer to securing the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins
at The Rock.
The win gives New Jersey 97 points – four ahead of the New York Rangers
, who begin a home-and-home series with the New York Islanders
on Thursday night at the Nassau Coliseum. The Devils can clinch fourth by winning at Philadelphia on Friday or beating the Blueshirts at home Sunday in the regular-season finale.
''We are trying to move forward and play well going into the playoffs,'' Devils goalie Martin Brodeur
said. ''This is a big win. We didn't play our best game. We were patient in the third, not trying to score right away. We got rewarded by a big goal at the end.''
After Brodeur stopped Glen Metropolit
, Phil Kessel
, David Krejci
and Marco Sturm
in the first four rounds, Parise had a chance to send the fans home happy. He deked before lifting a nifty backhander over the left shoulder of Tim Thomas
to secure the victory.
''We talked about the home-ice advantage,'' said Parise, who also scored the game-winner in Tuesday night’s 2-1 overtime win on Long Island. ''That's the thing we need to get. It's an important win for us.''
The Devils broke a scoreless tie just 3:14 into the game, when Dainius Zubrus
tallied his 13th goal of the season. After Thomas was unable to control the rebound on an initial shot by Mike Rupp
, Zubrus was there to pounce on the rebound as the Devils grabbed an early 1-0 lead.
Boston’s Dennis Wideman
responded with his 13th goal just 37 seconds into the second period. With the Bruins on a two-man advantage, Wideman took a pass from Krejci and fired a shot from the top of the right circle past Brodeur to make it 1-1. Milan Lucic
gave the Bruins the lead roughly 16 minutes later, when he backhanded a shot past the Devil’s netminder to snap an 18-game scoring drought.
Lucic’s go-ahead tally came just four minutes after a wraparound attempt by Zubrus was disallowed. The play was reviewed in Toronto for several minutes before referee Paul Devorski signaled no goal.
New Jersey would tie the game, however, with just 5:28 remaining in regulation. Once again, the play was set up by Rupp, who sent a pass out from behind the net to the slot for David Clarkson, and the latter beat Thomas for his ninth goal of the season.
Despite the loss, the Bruins inched closer to a playoff spot, earning a point for the sixth straight game (3-0-3). With 92 points, the Bruins are now tied with the struggling Ottawa Senators for sixth place in the East -- one point ahead of eighth-place Philadelphia, which lost in regulation at Pittsburgh on Wednesday. All three teams have two games to play.
''It's really up to us to do our job and worry about winning our hockey games,'' Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ''That's where we are at now, and that's why that second point would have been huge.''
Hurricanes 6, Lightning 2
Welcome back, Chad LaRose.
After missing close to two months with a broken leg, the Carolina forward notched a hat trick as the Hurricanes pummeled Tampa Bay at the RBC Center.
The victory has Carolina two points ahead of the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division race. The Hurricanes play their final regular-season game on Friday against the Florida Panthers, while the Caps have two games remaining. Washington hosts the Lightning on Thursday and the Panthers on Saturday.
Should both teams finish with 94 points, the Hurricanes would win the division since they would have one more victory than Washington. A win over Florida on Friday would give Carolina the division title and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
''One more game to win, and we look forward to the challenge against Florida,'' said Carolina center Eric Staal, who had a goal and an assist. ''We need to come out with that same energy and passion that we did tonight, and just take it to them.''
Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward made his 19th straight start and finished with 23 saves, helping Carolina put a stop to a two-game skid. Ward’s streak is the longest by a Carolina goalie since Arturs Irbe started in 26 consecutive games in 2001.
Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay, which dropped its second straight. After going four consecutive games without allowing a power play goal, the Lightning gave up a pair on Wednesday.
After Thursday’s game against the Capitals, Tampa Bay’s season will mercifully come to a close on Saturday against the Atlanta Thrashers.
''It's been a tough year. We've had some personnel changes. We're trying to work together and get better as a team, but obviously, we know where we're at,'' St. Louis said. ''We're trying to work for the future and trying to work hard to come together as a team.''
The Hurricanes needed only 32 seconds to get on the board, as Staal skated up the right wing and ripped a shot from the circle past Lightning goalie Mike Smith. Staal has three goals and 12 assists in his last seven home games, and the Hurricanes are 6-0-1 in that span.
St. Louis tied it with a power play goal at 8:24 of the first, but LaRose responded for the Hurricanes by scoring back-to-back goals. His first tally came with 3:50 left in the opening period, when he jammed Staal’s rebound past Smith to make it 2-1. LaRose put Carolina up by a pair 4:31 into the second, when he once again fired home a rebound for his first two-goal game since last season against the New Jersey Devils.
Carolina jumped out to a 5-1 lead on power play goals by Scott Walker and Tuomo Ruutu before Jeff Halpern scored on the man advantage for Tampa Bay at 15:46 of the third. LaRose then completed his first NHL hat trick as he beat Smith with a backhand shot with 1:39 remaining.
''Sitting out for so long was so tough, and I promised myself when I would get back that I'd be great every shift,'' said LaRose, who missed 21 games. ''I'm trying to work at it.''
Blackhawks 6, Red Wings 2
Chicago refuses to go down without a fight.
The Blackhawks kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night with an impressive win over Detroit in front of a capacity crowd at the United Center. Rookie sensation Patrick Kane reclaimed the NHL’s rookie-scoring lead with a goal and two assists.
“It was big,” said Kane, who now has 19 goals and 50 assists. “The guys jumped out and got things going. It was a great overall effort.”
Chicago has won three straight and must win its final two games to have any chance of reaching the postseason. The Blackhawks have missed the playoffs eight of the last nine seasons. With 86 points, Chicago is three behind eighth-place Nashville.
The Blackhawks host Nashville on Friday before closing out the regular season in Detroit on Sunday. They scored three times on their first six shots early in the first period, chasing future Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek in the process.
“We were up for it,” Chicago coach Denis Savard said. “We stayed disciplined, played whistle to whistle and were physical. We played a heck of a game.”
Besides Kane, Cam Barker, Jordan Hendry, Robert Lang, Dustin Byfuglien and Adam Burish also scored for the Blackhawks, who dealt the Red Wings their first regulation loss in seven games (5-1-1) and prevented them from claiming the Presidents’ Trophy and the top overall seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Red Wings need just one point in their final two games to secure home-ice advantage throughout the postseason. Henrik Zetterberg and Kirk Maltby scored against Nikolai Khabibulin, who finished with 26 saves.
“We lacked discipline, which I can’t say about our team very often,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They won every battle. They looked desperate and we looked uninterested.”
Material from wire services and team websites was used in this report.