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Devils try to post consecutive wins in road test vs. Sabres
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New Jersey Devils will try to win two straight games for the first time in three weeks on Tuesday night when they visit the Buffalo Sabres.
The Devils have won just three times in nine games since picking up two straight victories on March 8 and 11. New Jersey does have points in four consecutive games, following up a victory over Toronto with back-to-back shootout losses before last night's 6-3 win over the Florida Panthers.
The two points put the Devils three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with seven games to play. The Blue Jackets, though, have played one fewer game than the Devils and host the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
New Jersey certainly wanted to end the game in 60 minutes -- the Devils have lost an NHL-record 14 straight shootout games dating back to last season -- and jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Monday.
Travis Zajac scored twice in the opening frame and then finished off his first career hat trick with the game's final goal with 10:23 to play. Zajac scored for the first time in six games and has 16 tallies on the season.
"At this point in the season, there are different ways you can contribute and I'm happy I was able to score," said Zajac. "But I want to contribute any way possible, whether it's scoring goals or winning faceoffs."
Jaromir Jagr had a goal and three assists, upping his team-leading point total to 64, while Ryane Clowe had a goal and two helpers before exiting in the second period after taking a hard hit.
Clowe's status for this game is unknown, but the winger did miss 32 games this season with a concussion.
Martin Brodeur started in net, but was pulled in the second period with the score 4-3 after giving up three goals on nine shots. He did get the win, though, thanks to Cory Schneider stopping all 13 shots he faced in relief.
The Sabres sit last in the NHL with 49 points as they continue to skid into the offseason. They have lost four straight and 11 of their past 12 games.
Buffalo did create some stability for next season, removing the interim tag off head coach Ted Nolan after signing him to an undisclosed contract extension.
Nolan took over as interim coach on Nov. 13 when the Sabres made wholesale changes following a 4-15-1 start. The team is 16-30-8 since and still has the worst record in the NHL at 20-45-9.
"I said back in November that it was a dream to be able to come back and coach the Sabres and that's still true today," said Nolan in a statement Monday. "Hockey is my life and Buffalo is a special place for hockey. I'm excited by the challenge facing our team and our organization and I'm truly thankful to have this opportunity."
Nolan's extension came two days after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning that saw the Sabres unable to take advantage of a fortunate bounce.
Cory Conacher was credited with a game-tying goal 8:14 into the third period despite taking a hooking penalty. With Tampa Bay skating on a delayed penalty call, Steven Stamkos misfired on a pass and the puck rolled all the way down the ice and into Tampa's open net.
However, Ryan Callahan scored for the Lightning to tie the game and Stamkos won it 1:53 into overtime on a power play.
Cody Hodgson and Matt D'Agostini had one goal apiece and netminder Matt Hackett made 29 saves.
"We just have to come in here, focus and play our game. The boys bounced around, they did a great job," Hackett said.
Forward Ville Leino missed the game due to a migraine, but is expected to play tonight. However, forwards Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell, defensemen Tyler Myers and Alexander Sulzer, and goaltenders Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth all missed practice on Monday due to injury.
The Sabres have won their last three home meetings with the Devils, including a 2-1 victory on Jan. 4.
04/01 10:58:29 ET