The New Jersey Devils are unbeaten in regulation in their last five games and find themselves in the top half of the Metropolitan Division with the season's possibilities wide open entering their 30th game.
It's a nice improvement given the state of the franchise entering 2015-16, but that pace won't be good enough to catch the New York Islanders.
Two nights after earning two points against one of the league's hotter teams, the Devils can continue to climb Sunday in Brooklyn against the club sitting right above them in the division, though the Islanders haven't lost in regulation since Nov. 22.
New York (17-8-5) is 7-0-2 since that 4-2 loss in Montreal, but there haven't been any easy games lately. After Saturday's 3-2 overtime win in Columbus, the Islanders' last five have been decided in overtime or a shootout.
Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen gave them separate one-goal leads in regulation before Okposo finished things off in the extra period with a 2-on-none breakaway.
"It was a good win for our team," Okposo told the team's official website. "We got a little lucky with the last play, we have to come out tomorrow night and have a better effort."
The nine-game point streak began Nov. 25 with a win in Philadelphia, and the penalty kill has been flawless since the first the Islanders took in that contest, going 22 for 22. Add in a 38.9 percent power play in those games (7 for 18) and you've got the main ingredient to a streak on which they've actually been outscored 17-16 at even strength.
The Islanders have limited the Devils to 11 goals over a 7-0-1 span in the series with four straight home wins, including a 2-1 victory Nov. 3. in the first meeting in Brooklyn.
A 3-2 home overtime win over streaking Detroit on Friday has New Jersey (15-10-4) at 3-0-2 since its last regulation loss came 2-1 at home against Colorado to begin the month.
The Devils trailed by two goals entering the third period and won without Adam Henrique (lower-body injury) and Travis Zajac (upper body), who will sit again Sunday.
Kyle Palmieri scored the winner in the final minute of overtime after assisting on Sergey Kalinin's tying goal.
"I thought we were confident with the way we were playing after two periods, but we were getting a little frustrated down by two goals after putting together a decent 40 minutes," Palmieri told the team's official website. "We knew we had to try and wear them down, and I think we did a good job of that. It paid off in the end with the two points."
What's surprising about this season's moderate improvement is it's been nearly a month since the Devils won consecutive games. They last did it Nov. 12-14, and kicking the back-and-forth habit would get them within three points of the in-form Islanders.
"For us, it's about trying to find a way to win each game, and this particular lineup found a way to win," coach John Hynes said.
Hynes will start Cory Schneider, who has given up more than two goals once in his last nine games, going 4-2-3 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. He's never allowed more than two to New York, posting 1.64 and .940 marks while going 2-3-1.
Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak played against the Flyers and hasn't started both games of a back-to-back set this season, so Thomas Greiss figures to start. Greiss has won his last three and has a 1.93 GAA and .930 save percentage over a 4-2-0 span.