Yet, somehow they still managed to claim the season series from the Eastern Conference's top team.
New Jersey came from 2-0 down to send its home crowd out with a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at Prudential Center.
"We played well against them all year," New Jersey's starting goalie Johan Hedberg said. "I think tonight we got a couple of bounces ... and it was enough."
Ilya Kovalchuk recorded a goal and an assist, and Patrik Elias recorded two assists, as the Devils won for just the fifth time this year when they did not score first. New Jersey improved to 19-18-10 and 3-1 against the Penguins.
"When you play against the best players in the league, it always fires you up," Kovalchuk said. "They have a few of them out there."
New Jersey will close its regular season Saturday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.
"This is a big rivalry," Devils forward David Clarkson said. "We're going to come out and play hard."
Matt Cooke and Jussi Jokinen each scored for Pittsburgh, as the Penguins fell to 35-12-0.
Making his NHL debut on Thursday, Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas admitted he was nervous.
Gelinas was a minus-1 in 15:59. He started the game on defense along with Peter Harrold.
"I was surprised to be on the starting five," Gelinas said. "That made me more nervous. After the first shift, I think I felt better out there and just realized it was another hockey game."
Devils coach Peter DeBoer admitted he liked what he saw from the 21-year-old defenseman.
"He was solid," DeBoer said. "He moved the puck well. He gave us an element that you can never have enough of: a big, solid puck-moving defenseman."
"I thought he played very well," the netminder said. "You couldn't tell it was his first game ... he looked great."
DeBoer told the media Thursday morning he'd try to keep his young defender away from Pittsburgh's superstar-forward Evgeni Malkin, though Gelinas did meet Malkin for a few shifts.
"[Devils defense coach] Scotty [Stevens] believes on throwing them into the fire," DeBoer said. "He did a good job."
New Jersey's defense as a whole was great, limiting Pittsburgh to just 18 shots on goal.
"This is a team that's averaging 30-plus [shots] per night," DeBoer said.
Hedberg, making his first start since March 19, stopped 16 shots to earn his first win since March 13.
"It was nice," Hedberg said. "You want to finish strong, you want to finish with a strong feeling to walk away with ... that was good for us."
Hedberg's best save came early on the second period when he stoned Pittsburgh's Jarome Iginla with his left pad. Hedberg also stopped Kris Letang's point shot with about four minutes left on what was Pittsburgh's last real chance.
"He played unbelievable," Kovalchuk said of Hedberg.
Clarkson was happy the 40-year-old backup could earn a victory in what likely was his final start of 2013.
"Moose is one of the best teammates you'll play with," Clarkson said. "It was great to get that win for him."
Kovalchuk's goal at 13:50 of the third turned out to be the game winner.
Kovalchuk received a pass from Steve Sullivan and cruised in on right wing. He sent a pass towards Andrei Loktionov that hit a Pittsburgh's Brandon Sutter and beat Marc-Andre Fleury, breaking a 2-2 tie.
Kovalchuk admitted he was trying to pass but caught some luck.
"I was passing," he said. "[Loktionov] was wide open. It doesn't really matter."
Kovalchuk also admitted that he and Loktionov would join Team Russia in the upcoming IIHF World Championships in Sweden and Finland.
"We'll play together there," Kovalchuk said. "It's an honor to play there for your home country ... they're the reason why I am where I am right now."
Kovalchuk also admitted how difficult 2013 has been on him. The superstar winger missed 12 games with a shoulder injury and has registered just 11 goals and 20 assists in 36 games.
"I think, overall with the injuries, this was the worst season of my career," Kovalchuk said. "It's not easy."
Prorate Kovalchuk's stats for a full season-- including the 12 missed games-- and he'd have 60 points, which would be a career low.
With his two assists, Elias boosted his team-high point total to 36.
Elias, who will be an unrestricted-free agent at season's end, received chants of "Pat-ty" from the crowd throughout the night, including at the end when he was being interviewed by MSG's Deb Placey.
"It's great," he said. "They showed their appreciation. I was trying to do my best job out there, and the fans recognized that out there. It feels great."
The Devils were happy to send their fans out with a win in the team's final home game.
New Jersey posted 18 sellouts in 24 home games this year. Thursday night's attendance was 16,122.
"We owe it to our fans," Clarkson said. "Our fans have been fantastic. They've been supportive, so we came out and we played hard there tonight."
DeBoer admitted the team's last home game was "bittersweet."