NEWARK - The Devils had lost two straight and met Tuesday to discuss "team concept." The Rangers hadn't won in three straight, but felt they were ready to compete. Maybe they need a skull session before tomorrow's game in Atlanta.
"I think the guys responded very well," said New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire after the Devils scored three times in the second period to chase Henrik Lundqvist en route to a 6-3 win last night. "We showed that we really wanted to win tonight, more than I've seen lately."
"We played in spurts, as we've done most of the year," he said. "We were down 2-1 in the first but I thought we played well. Second period, we fought it."
The Devils were up 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 and the Rangers had battled back on goals by Vinny Prospal, Erik Christensen and then Brandon Prust, whose goal at 9:15 of the second period tied it at 3. Then the roof fell in.
First came Jamie Langenbrunner's deflection at 13:06 of the second, then the killer on a 3-on-1 rush by Brian Rolston. "The fifth goal was a big turn," Tortorella said. "We don't even get a shot on a 4-on-2 odd-man rush, and they score a goal on an odd-man rush. And then they just clamped down."
Victimized by redirections on three of the five goals on 17 Devils shots, Lundqvist was pulled after that 3-on-1 with Dan Girardi scrambling on his knees in an attempt to break up passes. Rolston's shot went through Lundqvist's pads at 15:19, and he was done. Alex Auld replaced him, and Travis Zajac completed the Rangers misery at 16:21 of the third.
"I guess I could play a little more aggressive," said Lundqvist, who had posted a record of 16-3-5 with a 1.43 goals against average and a .948 save percentage in 24 head-to-head matchups against Martin Brodeur, who made 16 saves. "I tried to be square, but the puck was hitting our guys, their guys, and some pucks just found their way in. Tough night; I don't think I should analyze it."
There wasn't much to analyze. As the Rangers filed into the dressing room after the second period, captain Chris Drury stood up on the bench and smashed his stick in two. The show of emotion did little to roust the Blueshirts.
The Devils' Rob Niedermayer opened the scoring, beating Lundqvist from between the hashmarks at 4:16. Prospal converted Marian Gaborik's feed at the right post 57 seconds later. At 18:17, Bryce Salvador's slapper from the point caromed off Olli Jokinen's stick and slid past Lundqvist for the 2-1 lead.
"We had some missed assignments," said Girardi, "but we were right in the game. I thought it was closer than the score looked."
The Rangers, however, are no closer to the postseason, still outside the final playoff spot in the East by three points with 15 games to play.