NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Taylor Hall scored two goals and the New Jersey Devils took a major step toward their first playoff berth since 2012 with a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
Coupled with Florida’s 5-1 loss to Boston earlier in the day, the Devils opened a five-point lead over the Panthers in the race for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and moved within a point of idle Philadelphia for the top wild-card spot. Both teams have four games left in the regular season, one fewer than Florida.
Stefan Noesen and Blake Coleman each had a goal and assist as the Devils won for the seventh time in 10 games (7-2-1). Keith Kinkaid, who has started nine of 10 games and been the mainstay in net since late January, had 27 saves, including a stop on a one-timer by Ryan Pulock with 14 seconds to play.
Tanner Fritz, Anthony Beauvillier and Chris Wagner scored for the Islanders, who have lost 16 of their last 19 (3-12-4). Thomas Greiss made 31 saves in his first game since Feb. 16, when he sustained an ankle injury and went on injured reserve.
Hall, who has carried the Devils in a career-best season, broke a 1-all tied 41 seconds into the second period with a fortuitous power-play goal. His shot from the left boards hit off the skate of New York defenseman Adam Pelech in front of the net and deflected past Greiss.
Hall’s 36th goal of the season was magnificent. He picked up a loose puck at his own blue line, flew up the ice into the Islanders zone and then veered to his left and ripped a shot over Greiss’ left shoulder from the left circle to make it 3-1 at 9:08.
Beauvillier got New York within one a little more than four minutes later with a power-play shot that was deflected by Devils forward Brian Gibbons past Kinkaid.
Islanders had a chance to tie it late in the period with another power play, but Coleman got his third short-handed goal, beating Greiss up high to cap a 2-on-1 with defenseman Mirco Mueller with 1:02 left in the period.
The goal became important when Wagner scored on a deflection in front with 3:36 left in regulation.
Fritz had given the Islanders the lead 75 seconds after the opening faceoff, scoring on a rebound. Neosen tied it at 7:54 scoring in close on a setup by Coleman.
NOTES: The Devils honored hockey historian and television analyst Stan Fischler during the game. A 2007 Lester Patrick Trophy recipient for contributions to hockey in the United States, he is retiring from television coverage in the New York-metropolitan area after this season. He turned 86-years-old on Saturday. … Devils RW Kyle Palmieri left the ice in the third period after being cut under the eye by an inadvertent stick from teammate Andy Greene. … Wagner took out Hall and referee Dan O’Halloran with a check being the Devils net in the first period. … Hall’s 88 points are the fifth most in a season for the Devils, eight less than Patrik Elias’ record of 96 set in 2000-01.
Islanders: Start the final week of the season at home against Philadelphia on Tuesday night
Devils: Play final back-to-back of season at Montreal on Sunday night.
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