After the Devils won by four goals with a shutout in Newark on Oct. 19, the across-the-Hudson rivalry with the Rangers returned to form on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. A defense-first, low-scoring battle, with the team that could convert one extra time emerging on top.
In this case, it was the Devils' turn again, as Dainius Zubrus pounced on a rebound with 2:55 left in regulation and 41-year-old Martin Brodeur stopped 33 of 35 shots in a 3-2 win.
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Dan Girardi had tied the score at 2 with a wrister from the point that hit Devils defenseman Adam Larsson in front at 13:18 of the third, giving the Rangers (9-9), who had won three straight, a temporary lift.
"Two of the three goals we gave up went off us, and one was a goal that Hank [Henrik Lundqvist] would want to have back," said coach Alain Vigneault, who also lamented the 0-for-5 power play. "We were praising the power play before," Vigneault said. "We didn't execute as well as we did in the past. They were pressing very aggressively."
The Devils also blocked 18 shots. "They keep it tight," said Ryan McDonagh. "They did a good job not giving us a second look."
In many ways this was a typical Rangers-Devils encounter. The teams have now been separated by two goals or fewer in 16 of the last 23 games. The Rangers totaled 19 goals in their previous five games, but Brodeur had posted two straight shutouts. And each team had climbed out of a season-opening hole: the Rangers started 2-6 and won seven of nine. The Devils, now 6-7-5, and had started 0-4-3.
The numbers had favored Lundqvist. In 37 regular-season head-to-head matchups with Brodeur, he was 24-8-5, with a 1.65 goals-against-average and five shutouts.
But Lundqvist, who finished with 25 saves, could have prevented Ryan Carter's second goal, with 47 seconds left in the second period, which gave the Devils a 2-1 lead. Carter beat Carl Hagelin to the puck along the right wall and his backhander from a sharp angle eluded Lundqvist. After the game, Vigneault called it "a routine save."
The Rangers had an opportunity to tie earlier in the third when Jacob Josefson illegally covered the puck with his hand. But the Blueshirts came up empty with the man advantage for the fourth time. They had connected at least once in five of the previous seven games, and then fizzled on a fifth chance at 10:05, when Jaromir Jagr pulled down McDonagh.
Carter's first of the night came when he went around defenseman John Moore and Lundqvist could get only a piece of his shot from the right side at 6:37 of the first period. The Rangers tied it 18 seconds later. Mats Zuccarello curled behind the net and backhanded a pass to Marc Staal above the left circle and the defenseman one-timed it past Brodeur. It was Staal's 100th career point and ended Brodeur's shutout streak at 191.21.
Brodeur was superb after that, stopping Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan and 15 shots in the period overall. And the veteran was superb on clearing dump-ins. The Devils were limited after defenseman Anton Volchenkov limped off for good during the first period, but "he's [Brodeur] out there like a third defenseman," Brad Richards said. "And they get a bounce at the end and we didn't."