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Hall scores 2 to help Devils move closer to playoffs

April 1, 2018

New Jersey Devils left wing Taylor Hall, right, shoots the puck against New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk before scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Devils’ first playoff berth since 2012 is there for the taking. All they have to do is take it.

Taylor Hall scored two goals and the Devils reduced their magic number for clinching a postseason berth to six points with a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Any combination of points earned by the Devils or not earned by Florida that total six will complete an improbable ride back to the postseason for the team that finished last in the Eastern Conference in 2016-17.

“It’s a tough time in the year and for a lot of the guys in this room, they’re going through it for the first time,” said Hall, who is looking to make the playoffs for the first time in his eight-year NHL career. “It wasn’t a perfect game but we managed to get two points and give ourselves some breathing room.”

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 conference and moved within a point of idle Philadelphia for the top wild-card spot. The Devils and Flyers each have four games left in the regular season, while the Panthers have five.

“Any win right now is going to be huge and we have to keep it going to give ourselves the best chance to control our own destiny and come out strong in Montreal tomorrow,” said goaltender Keith Kinkaid, who made 27 saves, the last on a one-timer by Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock with 14 seconds to play.

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).

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.

“He played great,” Pulock said. “It was good to see him back. It looks like he didn’t miss a beat, so good to see him.”

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.

“He’s our leader,” Coleman said of Hall. “He’s been doing it all year, it’s almost routine now for him to score big goals and make big plays. We feed off of it and it’s a reason why we are where we are.”

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. Devils coach John Hynes had no update on his condition. ... 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.

UP NEXT

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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