Cory Schneider made 40 saves and Travis Zajac had a short-handed goal and an assist to lead the New Jersey Devils over the New York Islanders 3-2 on Saturday night.
Devante Smith-Pelley and Pavel Zacha also scored for New Jersey (25-23-10), which finished 3-2-0 on its longest homestand of the season. Schneider stopped a penalty shot by John Tavares.
New York dropped to 26-21-10, including 7-13-4 on the road. Andrew Ladd and Anthony Beauvillier scored for the Islanders, while Thomas Greiss made 18 saves.
The first of four regular-season meetings between the Metropolitan Division rivals — and the first half of a weekend home-and-home — was a matchup of teams trying to make up ground in the playoff race.
The Islanders began the day one point behind Toronto for the final Eastern Conference wild card, while New Jersey trailed the Maple Leafs by five points.
Sprung by Zajac's pass off the boards, Smith-Pelley opened the scoring at 7:10 of the first period with a backhand that beat Greiss between the legs.
Exactly a minute later, Schneider kept the Devils ahead with a blocker save on Tavares' penalty shot. Tavares was awarded the try when he was hooked on the arm by Zajac to thwart a semi-breakaway.
Zajac's short-handed wrist shot from the left circle at 8:49 of the second doubled the Devils' lead. Tavares fell and lost the puck in the offensive end, allowing Zajac to counterattack with Adam Henrique on a 2-on-1.
Zacha added a power-play goal 6:21 into the third, but the Islanders mounted a comeback sparked by Ladd's goal at 8:58. New Jersey coach John Hynes used his coach's challenge to see if Tavares interfered with Schneider, but the ruling on the ice was upheld after a replay review.
The Islanders closed within one on Beauvillier's snap shot off the rush at 13:48.
New York outshot the Devils 42-21.
NOTES: New Jersey finished 1 for 2 with the man advantage and killed off all three New York power plays. ... Before the game, the Devils acquired D Viktor Loov from Toronto for C Sergey Kalinin. New Jersey assigned the 24-year-old Loov to its AHL affiliate in Albany, New York. Loov has 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) and 127 penalty minutes in 170 AHL games. . The Devils scratched LW Michael Cammalleri, who has not scored a goal since Jan. 3, a stretch of 18 games. In 51 games this season, Cammalleri has 10 goals, which is tied for third on the team with Zajac. Smith-Pelley dressed in Cammalleri's place. New Jersey also scratched D Seth Helgeson. . New York RW Cal Clutterbuck missed his eighth straight game with a lower-body injury, and Islanders D Travis Hamonic sat out his 19th consecutive game with a lower-body injury. . The Islanders scratched C Shane Prince and C Adam Pelech. . The game was the second half of a day-night doubleheader at Prudential Center. No. 2 Villanova routed Seton Hall 92-70 in the men's college basketball game earlier in the day. . The announced attendance was 16,514.
The teams meet again Sunday night in Brooklyn.