NEWARK, N.J. -- Since the end of November, the New Jersey Devils have more losses than wins. They are hardly in a position to take anyone lightly, even the lowly Colorado Avalanche with a starting goaltender making his NHL debut.
If the Devils are to stay in the playoff hunt, they need to beat the bottom feeders.
On Tuesday night at Prudential Center, it wasn't easy, but it was good enough.
Kyle Palmieri scored his 15th goal and Cory Schneider made 28 saves as the Devils got past the Avalanche 3-2.
The Avalanche nearly came up with the tying goal in the final seconds with goaltender Jeremy Smith on the bench for an extra attacker, but Schneider made a final save on defenseman Mark Barberio with one second remaining to seal the win.
Colorado lost its fourth straight and fell for the 13th time in 15 games.
New Jersey captain Andy Greene scored a power-play goal in the second period to put the Devils ahead for good.
"It's not a cliche," Greene said. "It's the truth every night. If you don't play your hardest and play well, you're not going to win. It doesn't matter who it is.
"It was important for us to come out in the first period and play really well and really hard and try to limit their chances early and take their will away."
Pavel Zacha did his best to shut down the Avalanche when he buried a rebound at 2:04 of the first period to give the Devils a 1-0 lead.
Barbeiro answered in the second period with a power-play goal, his first of the season, but Greene countered a little more than two minutes later with a power-play goal of his own to make it 2-1.
The goal was initially waved off for goaltender interference, but after a coach's challenge by John Hynes, it was ruled that the Devils' Miles Wood made contact with Smith after the puck crossed the goal line.
"I spoke to the ref and he said if (Wood) bumps me the same time the puck goes in, it's no goal," said Smith, who made 37 saves. "But they looked at the replay and said the puck went in a half-second before, which is the right call."
"He was our best player by a country mile," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of Smith.
Smith was helpless on the Palmieri goal that proved to be the difference. Palmieri and Taylor Hall executed a perfect two-on-one chance, with Palmieri feeding Hall on the left side and then taking the return pass and tapping it into an empty net to make it 3-1.
The goal was crucial, as a turnover by PA Parenteau led to Mikhail Grigorenko scoring off a feed from Matt Duchene to cut the lead to 3-2 after two periods.
The Devils, for a change, held strong over the final 20 minutes. New Jersey entered the game 15-0-5 when leading after two periods this season, which looks like an impressive number but was actually the sixth-worst mark in a league in which teams rarely squander any lead after 40 minutes.
"You'd love to add more offense, extend the lead," Schneider said, "but that doesn't always work. The other team makes a push. They want to score, too, so you have to be smart about it. You don't want to play it safe. You don't want to just chip it in or try to defend and not have that aggressiveness. I thought we had a good balance of making the smart play when we needed to.
"Sometimes you just hang onto your lead. That's not a bad way to win either."
NOTES: Avalanche D Patrick Wiercioch was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. ... Avalanche G Calvin Pickard, who started seven of the previous eight games, served as the backup. ... Devils D Jon Merrill returned to the lineup after missing five games with an upper-body injury. He replaced D Seth Helgeson, who has one goal in nine games this season. ... Devils D Kyle Quincey and RW Beau Bennett took part in the morning skate but did not play. Quincey (upper body) and Bennett (lower body) missed their third and ninth straight games, respectively.