NEWARK // The New Jersey Devils scored two goals in the opening two minutes of the third period to break open a tight game in a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Patrik Elias and Brian Rolston took turns setting each other up for goals in the opening minutes of the third to extend the Devils lead to 3-0.
Ilya Kovalchuk staked the Devils to 1-0 lead in the second period on a great individual effort, eluding Hurricanes defenseman Joe Corvo before snapping a shot past Carolina goalie Cam Ward.
"In the first couple of minutes (of the third) we scored two goals and took charge," Elias said. "After that I thought we sat back."
Sergei Samsonov broke Devils' goalie Johan Hedberg's shutout bid near the midpoint of the third period with a quick one-timer, and Tuomo Ruutu scored with just five seconds remaining to set up a nail-biting finish.
"That's a scary lead to have," said Hedberg of the 3-0 lead. "You think you're home safe. They get one and all of a sudden you're battling again."
Hedberg made 25 saves, including 14 in the third period for his fourth win in a row, and Kovalchuk extended his point scoring streak to eight games.
The Devils, the NHL's hottest team, have gone 7-0-1 since the All-Star break and 13-1-2 in their last 16 games, as they continue their unlikely push for the play-offs.
"We dug ourselves in a huge hole, and it's going to take a lot to get out of it," said Rolston. "We've been playing great but we can't be satisfied because we can't afford to lose, it's that simple.
"I think we're taking that kind of mindset in every game and we have a lot of confidence as a team right now."
OTHER RESULTS (home team in caps)
Toronto 2 BUFFALO 1
NEW JERSEY 3 Carolina 2
Los Angeles 4 COLUMBUS 3 (SO)
Philadelphia 4 FLORIDA 2
CHICAGO 3 Minnesota 1
Pittsburgh 3 COLORADO 2 (OT)
CALGARY 4 Dallas 2
Washington 7 ANAHEIM 6
(SO denotes shootout, OT = overtime)