NEWARK -- Rick Nash's first goal in five games decided a wild one between the Rangers and Devils Tuesday night. It began with a four-goal first period full of momentum swings, and ended with Henrik Lundqvist exulting, arms raised, after the Blueshirts hung on for a 3-2 win.
Given the history and recent scoring struggles of the cross-river rivals, you had to figure that it would end 1-0 or 2-1.
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Forget that prediction: After an entertaining first period, the score was tied at 2 -- on just 21 shots, 12 by the Devils. The pace didn't stop there. There were multiple chances in the second, as the end-to-end attacking continued until Nash beat Johan Hedberg stickside from the right circle at 7:25.
The turning point came after Lundqvist, who made 29 saves, swatted down Ilya Kovalchuk's wrister from the slot near the end of a power play to end a three-shot sequence. Michael Del Zotto fed Nash up the right side for his 10th of the season and the lead.
So the Rangers (15-12-2), after losing three in a row, won their second straight. For the first time in four back-to-backs, they took the second game as they pulled back into eighth place in the East, tying the Devils (13-11-6) in points at 32, but with two more wins and a game in hand. The Blueshirts host the Panthers Thursday night.
"Henrik makes three great saves in that second period and we go down and score,'' coach John Tortorella said. "Two big wins to come back to, we get four points when we struggled for a little bit. I'm happy with the way they responded.''
Nash's goal held up in the third as the Rangers tightened their defense, Tortorella said, by playing better along the wall.
The gates opened midway through the first. At the goalmouth, Del Zotto scored his first goal in 21 games, a shorthander at 11:49. He beat Hedberg after batting down Kovalchuk's chest-high deflection of Derek Stepan's throw-in from the right side.
"Any time you get a PK goal, it definitely provides a little bit of a boost,'' Del Zotto said. "It's funny, you get so many glorious chances in the slot and that's the one that goes in for you.''
The goal came just moments after a Devils shot glanced off the shaft of Lundqvist's stick and off the crossbar. It was to be that kind of period.
Travis Zajac responded on a power play at 15:15 with J.T. Miller off for hooking. Del Zotto kicked a loose puck in a scrum to Zajac, who didn't miss. The Rangers' Carl Hagelin hammered in his eighth from the left post after the puck bounced off the end boards at 16:50. Anton Volchenkov answered with a left-point shot through traffic 23 seconds later.
Early in the second, Hedberg (19 saves) stoned Hagelin, then flashed to his right to rob Ryan Callahan on a two-on-one with Stepan. With 8:38 left, Lundqvist matched that with a stop on David Clarkson after a between-the-legs drop pass from Patrik Elias.
The Devils and Rangers won't meet again until the final week of the season, with two matchups at Madison Square Garden. Those games certainly could affect the ever-changing playoff picture.