EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ The New Jersey Devils narrowed their focus and took a step toward catching the Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia Flyers.
``We just have to win these final hockey games,'' said Scott Gomez who assisted on all three goals Sunday night in the Devils' 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. ``We're not worrying about Philly. To be honest, I think that's what got us in trouble in the past. We got three games left and then the real dance starts, so we want to be going at full steam.''
Patrik Elias had a goal and two assists, and Scott Niedermayer and Brian Gionta also scored for the Devils who moved within two points of the Flyers. Martin Brodeur made 12 saves to post his 36th win.
``We've got three games and we just have to keep winning,'' Elias said. ``We'll know soon how it turns out.''
Dave Scatchard and Mark Parrish scored for New York, which dropped its second straight game during the weekend. The Islanders failed to reduce their magic number of four points needed to clinch the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot over Buffalo.
``You don't want to be looking over your shoulder,'' Parrish said. ``You want to be looking ahead to the playoffs. At this point in the season, you can't help but look at the standings and who's behind you and who's in front of you.''
Niedermayer opened the scoring at 6:26 as Elias and Islanders forward Mattias Weinhandl bumped into New York goaltender Rick DiPietro. That left Niedermayer with a wide-open net and marked the second straight game DiPietro was victimized that way on the first goal. He was down on the ice when Allan Roarke gave the Hurricanes the early lead Saturday in Carolina's 3-2 victory.
The Islanders, outplayed most of the first period, pulled even when Scatchard beat Brodeur from the right boards for a short-handed goal with 38.2 seconds remaining.
Elias and Gionta scored in the second period to give the Devils a 3-1 lead.
Elias scored on a backhander at 5:13. A video replay confirmed that the puck trickled over the goal line before DiPietro could clamp a pad on it.
Gionta deflected Gomez's shot in with 2:07 remaining.
Parrish wasted little time in the third, deflecting Kenny Jonsson's point shot past Brodeur 43 seconds in, cutting the Devils' lead to 3-2.
New Jersey allowed only three more shots the rest of the way.
``We had a tough weekend,'' Islanders coach Steve Stirling said. ``We played hard tonight but you can't fall behind with a third goal at the end of the second period. We had a huge mountain to climb.''
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