New Jersey (50-27-4) clinched its eighth Atlantic Division title in 12 years and a third-place finish in the East with a 3-2 shootout win at Ottawa on Thursday night. It was the 50th victory for the Devils, breaking the franchise mark of 49, set in 2006-07.
After going 0-5-1 over its previous six, New Jersey has won three of four.
"We're on our way," said winger Zach Parise, who scored one of the Devils' two shootout goals. "We did a pretty good job of eliminating opportunities, and we've got to start burying some of our chances, too, but we're getting there. We knew it wasn't going to be overnight but we've got one more game before the playoffs and we're slowly getting there."
The Devils' last regular-season game could be a preview of their first-round playoff series. The Hurricanes (45-29-7) won nine straight from March 18-April 7 to secure a postseason berth for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup following the 2005-06 season. They're tied with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with 97 points and could finish anywhere from fourth to sixth.
The Hurricanes and Penguins play their regular-season finales Saturday, while the Flyers have two games remaining.
In such a tight race, the Hurricanes know they missed an opportunity in their last game. They had their winning streak - and a club-record 12-game run at home - snapped with a 5-1 loss to Buffalo on Thursday night. They trailed 5-0 before Eric Staal's 40th goal with 27.1 seconds remaining helped them avoid their second shutout loss of the season.
"We got back to playing the way we don't want to play, and that's slow, kind of losing some of those little battles that we've been winning in the last month," winger Ray Whitney said. "But we're not going to go right to the gutter after this, by any means. ... We realize that if we don't bring it every night, we're not that good."
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said he wasn't worried about his team dwelling on that defeat today.
"In order to stew over something, you have to leave it in the pot for a long period of time," Maurice said. "This one will be out in the garbage and not talked about again."
Maurice's club has won its first three meetings with New Jersey, including a 2-1 road victory the last time the teams met March 28. The Carolina franchise is in position to sweep the Devils for the first time since winning all three meetings during the 1984-85 season, when it was based in Hartford.
Hurricanes wingers Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov have been the offensive catalysts so far in the series. Ruutu has two goals and two assists, and Samsonov has three goals and one assist.
Carolina's Cam Ward is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average against New Jersey.