NEWARK - One team's star winger came up with a big moment; the other's was bottled up, along with his team.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had one lapse, unable to stop a second-period breakaway by Ilya Kovalchuk. It turned out to be the game-winner as the Devils and goalie Johan Hedberg blanked the Rangers, 1-0, Friday night. It was the fourth time they have been shut out this season.
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The Rangers were held to a season-low 16 shots and could not derail the Devils, on an 8-0-1 run at Prudential Center. They have won six in a row overall.
"We were a step slow all night," coach John Tortorella said. "It was the whole group, but Hank gave us a chance to win. He was our best player tonight."
The deciding play came in the second period after defenseman Marc Staal couldn't control the puck and Anton Volchenkov sent it around the boards to the right point. Kovalchuk swooped in and sped down ice toward Lundqvist. Without a fake, he rifled a shot just inside the right post at 8:18.
"The bounce got to the wrong player. I tried to be patient, but he just beat me," said Lundqvist, who finished with 27 saves. "It's tough when you face a guy like that who's coming in a hundred miles an hour."
The Rangers, who expended an incredible amount of energy in a 4-3 shootout win over Los Angeles at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, could not solve the Devils' trapping defense. "I don't think we had an odd-man rush all night," Staal said.
Kovalchuk had five shots and five other attempts. The Rangers' top scorer last season, Marian Gaborik, had zero shots in 18:04 and was blanketed, as were the rest of the Rangers, who had scored eight goals in the last two games.
At the start of the third period, the Rangers generated some early chances. Ryan Callahan's shot hit the post behind Hedberg. They also tried to be more physical with Kovalchuk, with Callahan and Dan Girardi combining on a check at the benches. But the Devils steadied midway through the period and continued to outshoot the Rangers.
Kovalchuk's baseball swing at a high puck caught Wojtek Wolski in the face at 9:51 and the Rangers had their second power play, but their shots missed or didn't reach the net.
The Devils, whom Lundqvist described as much more confident than earlier in the season, kept their line changes short and kept the puck out of their zone. Lundqvist was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:15 left to no avail.
The tone was set soon after the puck dropped. The Devils dominated the first period, controlling the tempo with Kovalchuk flying.
The game remained scoreless because Lundqvist was superb, both in positioning and reaction to deflections. He made 12 saves, including a superb stop on Kovalchuk's blast.