- Associated Press - Saturday, April 5, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Marek Zidlicky’s shot hit a teammate, then the post. It spun in front of the net, and took a left turn across the goal line.

A few more breaks like that, and these New Jersey Devils might follow a similar, meandering path to a playoff berth.

Dainius Zubrus scored two goals and the short-handed Devils beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Saturday night.

Travis Zajac scored the go-ahead goal on his deflection of Zidlicky’s second-period shot to help the Devils earn a point in their seventh straight game.

“We’ve been so close to these kind of wins all throughout the year and just somehow haven’t racked them up in a row,” winning goalie Cory Schneider said. “If you’re going to go on a run, these are the ones you need to grind out, and that’s what we’ve been doing the last couple of games.”

They found a way to do it without some of their cornerstone players - forwards Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique, who were both hurt the night before in a win against Washington.

“I knew we had character in that room,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “A lot of people were writing us off, and I knew there was no quit in that dressing room. These guys are going to play right until they tell us we can’t play anymore.”

The Devils improved to 4-0-3 during a stretch that has given their playoff chances a significant boost.

“We’ve been picking up points, and we’ve been playing some good hockey,” Zajac said. “We’ve got to try to find a way to keep this going and see what happens.”

Jeff Skinner scored for Carolina, which had its two-game winning streak snapped. The Hurricanes had kept their faint playoff hopes alive by earning points in their previous five games.

“I think a lot of guys” played with desperation, coach Kirk Muller said. “We just didn’t have everybody. It’s too bad, because we had a few good games here that we went on the road and played hard and earned the points.

“I don’t want to take it away from the group of guys that came and did what they’re supposed to do and played hard,” he added. “But we didn’t have everyone on the page tonight, and when you’re playing tight games like this, playoff mentality, you’re not going to get the result.”

Schneider stopped 26 shots for the Devils, including all eight he faced in the third period, for his second straight victory.

Anton Khudobin made 20 saves in his first loss since March 25.

New Jersey won the season series 3-1, and a strange goal initially credited to Zidlicky at 6:34 of the second turned out to be the winner.

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