There were muffled cheers and groans seeping out of the players' lounge as the Devils watched the Capitals-Bruins shootout in the moments after their 6-4 rout of the Lightning.
And while the Devils delivered a decisive come-from-behind win against the Bolts, the mood was dampened just a little when Brooks Laich sealed the victory for the Capitals and prevented New Jersey from clinching a playoff spot in Washington’s 3-2 shootout win against Boston.
The Devils remain in good shape, however. They need to secure only one point in the next four games to clinch a postseason bid. And they feel confident that will happen.
“I haven’t made any summer plans,” joked goaltender Martin Brodeur.
The Devils did all they could to ensure play past April 7, erasing three one-goal leads in a four-goal second period to snuff out Ryan Malone's fourth career hat trick and spark the offense.
Dainius Zubrus converted on a 2-on-1 rush for the Devils’ league-leading 15th short-handed goal, and the team wrested momentum from there with a well-balanced attack.
Jacob Josefson, Ilya Kovalchuk and defenseman Marek Zidlicky also tallied in the second while Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson added another pair in the third to chase Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson from the net.
It was a much-needed boost for a goal-starved squad that had managed to score only 13 in the previous eight contests.
“I feel we have a team that can score, so I’m hoping this leads to some consistent goals,” coach Pete DeBoer said.
DeBoer kept the Devils’ line of Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias and Zubrus intact but shifted personnel elsewhere, reuniting Travis Zajac with Zach Parise and Kovalchuk, while dropping rookie center Adam Henrique between Ponikarovsky and Clarkson. The move paid dividends as the Devils recorded their third six-goal game of the season and first since Feb. 4.
“It definitely as nice to get a little explosion on offense there. It’s been a while since we’ve put up six,” Parise said. “It felt good. I think we did a good job on the forecheck, made a lot of turnovers and we finished. We capitalized tonight.”
That wasn’t enough to clinch a playoff spot, but the Devils feel they can take care of that on their own.
“You don’t want to rely on any other team to have to lose for you to make it in,” he said. “We’ll just worry about ourselves and make sure we’re going in the right direction after tonight.”