A disputed call that disallowed an apparent game-tying Rangers goal with 3.5 seconds left in regulation tonight left the Blueshirts steaming---and 1-0 losers to the streaking Devils.
With goaltender Henrik Lundqvist pulled for an extra attacker, Marian Gaborik was jammed into the crease from behind by defenseman Anton Volchenkov and Artem Anisimov’s rebound went past Martin Brodeur. But Gaborik, who appeared to be stopping, was whistled for interference, the goal was waved off and John Tortorella was irate on the bench.
“I don’t understand,” said Gaborik. “I tried to get ahead of him (Volchenkov) and tried to get my stick (down), open my legs for a pass tried to stop. If I would have run him, I wouldn’t say a word, but I tried to stop, and I got pushed into Brodeur. We could’ve been in overtime right now.” Devils coach Peter DeBoer disagreed: “I thought it was the right call.”
Perhaps mindful of the $30,000 fine levied by the NHL for his pointed critique of the officiating in the Winter Classic, Tortorella twice declined to comment on the decision.
David Clarkson’s power-play goal at 8:14 of the first period, with rookie defenseman Stu Bickel in the box for holding, and Martin Brodeur’s 30 saves, including 15 in the third period, was enough for a fifth straight win for the Devils, who climbed within six points of the first-place Rangers (71 points) in the Eastern Conference. For Brodeur, it was his first shutout of the season and 117th of his career.
It was the sixth time the Rangers have been blanked this season and the second in the last three games, sandwiched around a 5-2 defeat of the Flyers at home on Sunday afternoon.
All recent Devils-Rangers matchups have been tight. Eleven of the last 15 games have been decided by two goals or less, but as Lundqvist said, the special teams were the difference here. The Rangers, 0-3 on the power play, are mired in a 0-for-17 and 2-47 ditch and the continuing problem has the potential to drag them back to the pack if it isn’t solved.
“It’s going to be important going down the stretch here that we win special team games,” said Lundqvist. “A lot of times that’s going to be the difference. Tonight, in the end, that was the difference.” Said Tortorella, who is clearly frustrated by the failures: “It’s beginning to show signs…but certainly not good enough….it’s not getting done.”
Lundqvist also thought that the score that appeared to tie the game should have counted. “I think their guy pushed Gabby into the net,” he said. “It should have been a goal. If the goalies sell it that way, they’re going to call a penalty. There was some contact, but I think their guy pushed him in and usually they let it go a lot of times.”
The Rangers had out-scored the Devils, 7-4, in the first two games of the series, including 5-2 in the third period and it was all Rangers in the final 20 minutes. “The difference was Brodeur,” said Tortorella. “He made some really good saves in the third. You’ve got to give him credit.”