The Boston Bruins' hold on the Atlantic Division's last automatic playoff berth slipped a little during their losing streak, but they still control their own destiny for that spot down the stretch.
That's a good thing considering the quality of their remaining opponents.
The New Jersey Devils aren't counting themselves out of the playoff race just yet, but they realistically will be if they drop a sixth straight meeting with visiting Boston on Tuesday night.
The Bruins (40-28-8) scored six times while dropping a season-high five in a row - four on the road - before snapping their skid with Saturday's 3-1 win at league-worst Toronto. They still have a slim lead on Detroit for third place in the division despite the slump, and have six games remaining to lock it down.
After facing the Devils (36-32-8), Boston concludes a four-game road trip with visits to St. Louis on Friday and Chicago on Sunday. It finishes with a three-game homestand against still-alive Carolina and a potentially crucial showdown with the Red Wings before the finale against Ottawa on April 9.
"It's a big win mentally as well, but we know we have a lot of work ahead of us," center Patrice Bergeron said. "It's about taking it a game at a time. We've talked about moving on to the next task, and it's Jersey now."
The Bruins scored twice on the power play against the Maple Leafs after going 2 for 23 with the man advantage over their previous 10. Bergeron's goal and Matt Beleskey's empty netter came on the power play, and Zdeno Chara snapped a 20-game goal drought by scoring in the second period.
''We played better, simple as that,'' Chara said. ''We were tighter defensively, better offensively, stronger on pucks, more physical. Overall, I thought we had a good strong game.''
Boston hasn't had much trouble with the Devils recently, winning both meetings this season and 17 of the last 20. That includes taking nine of the last 10 in New Jersey, including a 4-1 victory Jan. 8.
Bobby Farnham scored the lone goal for the Devils in that contest and also potted a goal Saturday, but his team was outshot 14-3 in the first period and couldn't recover in a 3-2 loss to Carolina.
New Jersey has dropped back-to-back games after winning five of its previous seven and is running out of time to make up ground for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
"I don't think you need to talk about it to understand where you are and what the points mean and all that," said Travis Zajac, who scored shortly after Farnham in the second. "That first period just wasn't good enough. It's tough to come back from three down. We just couldn't find a way to tie it up."
The Devils have been without goaltender Cory Schneider since he sprained his MCL in a loss at Dallas on March 4. He said his knee feels good, but he's been sent to the AHL for a conditioning assignment.
Scott Wedgewood has a 1.25 goals-against average in four straight starts since making his NHL debut with a win over Columbus on March 20.
"It's do or die pretty much from here on out," Wedgewood said. "When there's a will there's a way, and right now we still have that will in us."
Tuukka Rask made 25 saves against Toronto and should get the nod for the Bruins. He hasn't faced the Devils this season but has a 1.51 GAA in seven starts and two relief efforts against them in his career.