The New Jersey Devils are finding ways to win close games and put distance between themselves and their division rivals.
The Devils try for their fourth straight win when they host the New York Islanders on Thursday.
New Jersey has won the first two contests of a six-game homestand and three in a row overall, all by one- goal margins. The Devils beat the New York Rangers 3-2 in a shootout on Tuesday and now have 72 points, tops in the Atlantic Division and second-most behind Buffalo (78) in the Eastern Conference.
"We've had a lot of games decided by one goal," said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, whose team has won 21 of its 31 one-goal games this season. "You've got to get used to it. This is playoff hockey. That's what it is all about. You have to learn to play with a small lead or come back. That's what we have been doing all year."
New Jersey (33-15-6) has won eight of its last 11 games to put some ground between itself and the rest of the division. Pittsburgh is nine points behind while the Islanders are in third place with 59 points.
After games with Tampa Bay and Montreal, New Jersey concludes its homestand with a Feb. 16 game against the Penguins.
The Devils have won their last three home games and are 5-0-1 in their last six at Continental Airlines Arena to run their conference-best home record to 19-4-4.
"They're a team behind you and you try to push them down as much as you can," Brodeur said of beating the Rangers, who are four points behind the Islanders. "The division is what it is all about. If you win the division, you'll have a good spot in the playoffs."
Another win for New Jersey over the Islanders (26-21-7) would be helpful. The Devils have won the last three meetings in the season series after New York won the first matchup 5-2.
The Islanders beat Philadelphia 2-0 at home on Wednesday night. Rick DiPietro made 27 saves for his fifth shutout this season, and Viktor Kozlov and Miroslav Satan scored for New York.
Satan has four goals in his last four games.
The Islanders are 5-0-3 during an eight-game points streak and have moved to within two points of Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
"You really have to tighten up this time of year when goals are tough to come by," DiPietro said. "If you aren't going to score many, you can't give up many."
This hot stretch follows a period where New York lost nine of 11. The Islanders are also 5-1-2 in their last eight road games, following a five-game losing streak away from home.
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