Ilya Kovalchuk nets winner as Johan Hedberg, red-hot Devils blank Rangers

The surging Devils still have a long way to go to really enter the Eastern Conference playoff race, but Ilya Kovalchuk and a lockdown defensive system have made believers all over.

Kovalchuk scored for the fourth straight game and Johan Hedberg made 15 saves to give the streaking Devils a 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night.

The Devils have changed from a terrible disappointment to unexpected playoff contender in just over a month. New Jersey won its season-high sixth straight and improved to 14-1-2 in its past 17 games to enter the postseason discussion.

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