Devils run away from Isles for second straight Atlantic Division title

NEWARK, N.J. -- With a game left in the regular season, the New Jersey Devils aren't satisfied with winning their second straight Atlantic Division title.

They want the second seed in the Eastern Conference, so they are going to go all out to beat Buffalo in the regular-season finale on Sunday. The Sabres trail New Jersey by one point.

"It feels good," Zajac said after matching his career best with three assists to help New Jersey win the division with a 7-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

"It's what we've worked for all year," he added. "It's a tough division with Pittsburgh, Philly and the Rangers. We had to battle all year. We've still got one game here and we want to finish as high as possible. It will be a big game for us to make sure we finish second in the conference."

What the Devils want is home-ice advantage for at least two rounds. It will take a win over the Sabres to secure that.

"It gives you the opportunity, if you pass the first round, to be home again," said Martin Brodeur, who came within 6:50 of posting his 10th shutout of the season. "It's always important to have as many games as possible in your own building. You play all year to position yourself. It's available to us with a win."

The Devils played one of their best games of the season in wrapping up the division. Atlanta provided the final push by beating Pittsburgh 1-0 on Saturday. That eliminated the Penguins from having a chance to finish first.

New Jersey's seven goals were a season high, as was the six-goal margin of victory.

Patrik Elias scored twice, and Dainius Zubrus, Zach Parise and Dean McAmmond tallied in a 4:54 span of the first period to ignite the Devils.

Elias and Brian Rolston added second-period, power-play goals, and Ilya Kovalchuk and Elias tallied in the third.

"It was nice to get a lot of scoring from a lot of different people," Parise said. "All the lines played well, generating offense. Everyone knows, if you want to go far in the playoffs, that's what you need."

The Devils took command in the opening period, in large part because of shoddy play by Martin Biron.

The Islanders goalie lost his balance and fell to the ice after Devils defenseman Paul Martin flubbed a shot from the point. The puck went low in the right circle, and Zubrus took a bad-angle shot that banked in off Biron and defenseman Bruno Gervais at 10:54.

Parise stretched the lead to 2-0 about 3 minutes later, swiping the rebound of Colin White's shot into an open net.

Zajac assisted on Parise's goal and tallies by Rolston and Kovalchuk. He originally was given an assist on Zubrus' goal but it was taken away after the game.

McAmmond closed the outburst with a bad-angle shot from the left circle that found its way between Biron's pads.

"It's tough being down 3-0, but at the same time we have to show up for the last two periods," Islanders forward Sean Bergenheim said. "I think we really have to take a good look in the mirror. I wouldn't say it was only the first period. We have to show up the rest of the game."

Elias stretched the lead to 4-0 at 11:16 of the second period with a power-play shot that deflected in front. Parise originally was given credit for the goal but replays showed that it might have hit Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen.

Rolston reached the 20-goal mark for the seventh time in his career in the final minute of the period with a blue-line blast off a nice cross-ice pass by Kovalchuk, who also had the primary assist on Elias' 18th goal.

Kovalchuk scored midway through the final period, deflecting a point shot by defenseman Andy Greene. Elias got his 19th with a bad-angle shot that deflected past Biron.

Islanders forward Matt Moulson got his 29th of the season in close, swatting a pass from John Tavares between Brodeur's legs.

Game notes
New Jersey won the season series 4-2. ... Parise had a team-high four goals against the Islanders. ... Centers Rod Pelley of the Devils and Michael Haley of the Islanders fought in the second period with both lightweights landing good punches. ... The Islanders will close the season by hosting Pittsburgh on Sunday.