A disputed call that disallowed an apparent game-tying Rangers goal with 3.5 seconds left in regulation Tuesday night 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 a fallen Martin Brodeur. But Gaborik, who appeared to be stopping, was whistled for interference by referee Dean Morton, the goal was waved off and John Tortorella was irate on the bench.

"I don't understand," Gaborik said. "I tried to get ahead of him [Volchenkov] and tried to get my stick [down], open my legs for a pass and 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," he said.

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 penalty 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. It was Brodeur's first shutout of the season and 117th of his career.

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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 the Garden on Sunday afternoon.

All recent Devils-Rangers matchups have been tight. Eleven of the last 15 games have been decided by two goals or fewer, but as Lundqvist said, the special teams were the difference Tuesday night. The Rangers, 0-3 on the power play, are mired in a 0-for-17 and 2-for-47 slump with the man advantage 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," Lundqvist said. "A lot of times that's going to be the difference. Tonight, in the end, it was."

Said Tortorella, who clearly is frustrated by the failures: "It's beginning to show signs . . . but certainly not good enough . . . it's not getting done."

One underachiever is Brad Richards, who has one goal and two assists in 12 games.

Lundqvist also thought that the goal 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; they let it go a lot of times."

The Rangers had outscored the Devils, 7-4, in the first two games of the series, including 5-2 in the third periods, and it was all Rangers in the final 20 minutes.

"The difference was Brodeur," Tortorella said. "He made some really good saves in the third. You've got to give him credit."