RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at PNC Arena on Thursday.
Carolina will return to the postseason for the first time since 2009, ending the longest drought in the NHL.
"When you go nine years, nobody wants to watch that, I get it," said first-year Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour, who was captain of their 2006 Stanley Cup championship team. "Now all the changes we've made have been positive, and it's electric around here. The town, they deserve to have a team like this they can be proud of."
[WATCH: All Devils vs. Hurricanes highlights]
Nino Niederreiter scored from the slot to give Carolina a 3-1 lead at 16:35 of the third period.
Petr Mrazek made 35 saves for the Hurricanes (45-29-7), who lead the Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens by three points for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Columbus has two games remaining, and Carolina and Montreal each has one.
Video: NJD@CAR: Mrazek stretches out pad to rob Hischier
"That (playoff) feeling is amazing, the best part of hockey," said Mrazek, who is 11-2-0 in his past 13 starts. "It's been a great journey, from Day One when I came here (as a free agent July 1, 2018). I hope we're not done."
The Hurricanes are two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Andy Greene scored for the Devils (30-41-10), who have been eliminated from playoff contention. Cory Schneider made 23 saves.
"For the majority of the game, we were the better team," New Jersey coach John Hynes said. "This game was a little indicative of our team. I thought we competed very well, but we didn't use (our chances) to score enough."
Greene scored with a wrist shot through traffic from above the left face-off circle to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead at 4:56 of the first period.
The Hurricanes tied the game 1-1 when Warren Foegele took a stretch pass from Dougie Hamilton, split two Devils at the blue line, and beat Schneider five-hole at 10:03.
"I don't have words to know what it's going to feel like, but I know all of us are going to be ready for that moment," Foegele said.
Justin Faulk scored with a slap shot on the power play to give Carolina a 2-1 lead at 1:36 of the second period.
Video: NJD@CAR: Faulk blasts slap shot into twine for PPG
"There's a pretty good vibe going on, it's great," Faulk said. "We're excited, but we're not done. It's not enough to get into playoffs. It's not enough to get in and call it good."
Faulk, in his eighth season, is the Hurricanes' longest-tenured player.
He said, "It's nice not having to sit here thinking about what I'm going to be doing (in the offseason) and what the narrative is going to be and why things didn't go our way."
Hurricanes forward Justin Williams played on the 2006 Cup team. He returned to Carolina as a free agent before the 2017-18 season, and Brind'Amour named him captain Sept. 13, 2018. It is the first time he has been captain in his 18 NHL seasons.
"I feel the respect, absolutely I do," said Williams, whose 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) are the most he's had since he had 59 in 2011-12 for the Los Angeles Kings. "Guys look to you for advice or talking. But it's one thing to talk and another thing to play. It's important I was productive this year as well."
Video: Clutch Performance: Mrazek stops 36 of 37 shots
They said it
"You look at the two 5-on-5 goals, and they were just mental mistakes. We've made those all year long. It's decisions at the right time, and that ultimately cost us the game." -- Devils coach John Hynes
"What's special here is I'm not on the ice. I'm sitting back and I'm enjoying watching these young guys, and I'm happy for them. It's way different than when I was playing. It's a totally different stress. It's not fun. But it's fun to see the hard work pay off for people." -- Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour, who played 10 seasons with Carolina
Need to know
Devils forward Pavel Zacha and defenseman Connor Carrick each played his 200th NHL game. ... It was Schneider's last start of the season. Mackenzie Blackwood will play for New Jersey in the season finale at the Florida Panthers on Saturday. ... Williams played his 428th game for the Hurricanes, one more than he played for the Kings. He also played for the Philadelphia Flyers (226 games) and Washington Capitals (162 games). ... The Hurricanes power play is 5-for-7 in the past four games.
Devils: At the Florida Panthers on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, MSG+ 2, NHL.TV)
Hurricanes: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSP, FS-CR, NHL.TV)
Video: Hurricanes clinch playoff spot with 3-1 win