- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN New York Writer
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WHAT IT MEANS: Left winger Zach Parise is ready to begin skating. And the way the New Jersey Devils are playing of late, they may get him back before their improbable stretch run toward the playoffs is over. The Devils won for the 10th time in their last 11 games on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1. With the victory, New Jersey moved back within nine points of the idle Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Devils have now gone an unimaginable 18-2-2 in their last 22 games. They have only 19 games left to pull off the miracle, but the way they’ve been playing, who knows. Despite being without Jason Arnott, the Devils didn’t miss a beat with newly acquired centerman David Steckel. However, their reconstructed third and fourth lines are going to need time to find chemistry.
LET 'ER RIP: The "Kovy! Kovy! Kovy!" chants started with 9:50 remaining -- right after the Devils’ $100 million man put them on top. Ilya Kovalchuk unleashed an absolute Howitzer from the between the circles after taking a pass from Travis Zajac that beat Dwayne Roloson upstairs. In fact, the Russian sniper shot the puck so hard he flopped over. His 22nd goal of the season unknotted a 1-1 tie and instilled new life in the crowd.
MARTY! Making his second consecutive start after missing the previous nine games with a sprained MCL in his right knee, goaltender Martin Brodeur earned his second straight victory between the pipes, making 15 saves. His best stop of the evening came in the first period, when he robbed Nate Thompson on the breakaway with a glove save. Brodeur's defenseman continued their impeccable work in front of him as well. The Devils have allowed just four goals in their last six games.
TIED UP: Late in the second period, the Devils were looking for something, anything to get back in the game. They found that something in the form of Henrik Tallinder's fourth goal of the season with 1:15 remaining. After Kovalchuk split defenders and brought the puck into the Lightning zone, the Devils' first shot was blocked. However, the puck bounced to Tallinder at the top of the left circle and he fired a low shot that was deflected before it found its way behind Roloson, tying the game at 1-1.
TOO ANSSI: The Devils came in having killed off their last 21 penalties. But after defenseman Anssi Salmela foolishly flipped the puck over the boards in his own end and was whistled for delay of game in the second period, New Jersey was unable to extend its streak to 22. Pavel Kubina's wrister from the top of the right circle deflected off Dominic Moore's skate and past Brodeur. It was Moore's 11th goal of the season, third on the power play, and it came at 4:41 of the middle frame, allowing Tampa Bay to jump out to a 1-0 lead.
UP NEXT: The Devils will take on the Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night at the Prudential Center. The reason the Penguins don't have Crosby's services still is because new Devils acquisition David Steckel hit him in the Winter Classic when he was a member of the Washington Capitals, causing a concussion. Will the Penguins be seeking retribution? We'll find out in two days.
Recap | Box score | PhotosWHAT IT MEANS: Left winger Zach Parise is ready to begin skating. And the way the New Jersey Devils are playing of late, they may get him back before their improbable stretch run toward the playoffs is over.