Mats Zuccarello scored twice and also saved a goal as the Rangers, playing their fourth straight game against opponents in the oh-so-tight Metropolitan Division, beat the Devils, 5-2, at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Here’s how it unfolded: In the second period, Devils defenseman Damon Severson one-timed a high shot past Henrik Lundqvist to cut the Rangers’ lead to 2-1 at 13:45, and New Jersey continued to apply pressure.
Enter Zuccarello, who was forechecking at the Devils’ blue line. He poked the puck from Severson, spun, skated in on Keith Kinkaid and ripped a shot stick side at 16:03 to restore the two-goal margin. The goal was scored two seconds after a Rangers penalty expired.
“At first, I was trying to kill the penalty, then I see I had a chance. I was surprised I had a half-breakaway,” Zuccarello said.
It proved to be the winner. His second goal — and seventh of the season — came on a sweet pass from J.T. Miller at 6:21 of the third.
Zuccarello also bailed out the Blueshirts, who were leading 1-0 in the second period, when he swooped into the crease behind a fallen Lundqvist to scoop away a rolling puck that was inches from the goal line after a shot by Brian Gibbons.
Said Zuccarello, “I don’t know if it would have gotten in or not. I gave it away right afterward, and Hank saved me.”
At 9:42 of the second, right wing Jesper Fast was in the right spot again, wristing a shot under the bar past Kinkaid’s glove from in close on a pass from the right side by Rick Nash, who had two assists and numerous shots that were denied by Kinkaid.
Fast, the underrated right wing, has been on a tear for the Rangers with six goals in the last eight games.
It was quite a different third period from Friday’s game in Washington, when the Blue shirts allowed two goals in the final 3:38 of the game in a 4-2 loss. On Saturday, the third period culminated a back-and-forth game between the rivals. Thirteen seconds after Zuccarello’s second goal, Miles Wood, at the right post, scored on Pavel Zacha’s perfect pass from the left side. Kevin Hayes, who had gone seven games without a goal, made it 5-2 on a pass from Nash with 8:01 left.
Wood had been involved in a scrap with Kevin Shattenkirk early in the second period. Lundqvist slid way out of the crease to deny his rush, and Wood bumped him. Shattenkirk objected and the two dropped the gloves, generating a double-minor for roughing for Wood and a single roughing call on Shattenkirk.
Lundqvist, who made 26 saves, earned his 419th career win. He passed Tony Esposito for second-most wins by a goaltender with one franchise. Martin Brodeur is the all-time leader with 688.