Facing elimination Saturday, the Devils demolished the Panthers 6-2 to keep their playoff hopes alive heading into a bitter clash against the Rangers to close out the weekend.
The Devils travel to Manhattan Sunday for a matinee against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Ousted by New Jersey in the Eastern Conference finals last spring, the Rangers have a chance to exact some payback and extinguish the Devils' playoff hopes.
"That will be a man's game tomorrow," Devils coach Pete DeBoer told reporters after the game. "They've got an opportunity to close us out and I'm sure they're going to relish that."
Ilya Kovalchuk returned for the Devils after missing 11 games with a shoulder injury; he was a minus-one in 22:43 of ice time.
The Devils and Rangers square off twice more before the season ends. The two clubs close out the regular season with another game at MSG next Saturday.