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The Wrap: Devils 6, Rangers 3

                            NEWARK, N.J.---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 Friday’s game in Atlanta.
                            “I think the guys responded very well,” said New Jersey head 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.”
                              What Rangers coach John Tortorella saw in a critical game for the ninth-place Blueshirts (29-29-9) was more of the same: Inconsistency and lapses.
                            "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 Rangers had battled back on goals by Vinny Prospal, Erik Christensen and then Brandon Prust, at 9:15 of the second period, to tie the score 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 skated to the bench. Alex Auld replaced him, and Travis Zajac, the sixth Devil to score, ended 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 Brodeur. “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 40 minutes, captain Chris Drury stood up on the bench and smashed his stick in two. The show of emotion did little to roust the Blueshirts, who flubbed their third power play to open the third. And Martin Brodeur was decent enough, with 16 saves on 19 shots.
                               In the first, Tortorella had loaded up with Jokinen, Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal on a line. But Rob Neidermayer beat Lundqvist from between the hashmarks at 4:16.  Prospal converted 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, a sign of things to come.
                            "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 post-season, still outside the final playoff spot in the East by three points with 15 games to play.



               The Penguins’ Matt Cooke avoided suspended yesterday for a blindside hit that felled the Bruins’ Marc Savard on Sunday and left him with a Grade 2 concussion. But with the incident on the front burner, NHL general managers unanimously approved a recommendation that “lateral, back pressure or blindside”  hits to the head will be punished by a minor or major penalty starting next season. The recommendation needs to be approved by the league's competition committee and board of governors. Several players believe the head-shot situation had to be discussed.
                   “It’s been an issue this year, guys going down and missing a lot of games,” said Marian Gaborik, who referred to a similar hit by Cooke earlier in the year on Artem Ansimov. “It needs to be addressed. There needs to be mutual respect out there. When you see a guy in a vulnerable position, it doesn’t do any good to anybody to hit him like that, like Cooke. He’s done it a few times already.”
                     Henrik Lundqvist had last been yanked from a game on Jan. 23 against Montreal and was replaced by Matt Zaba. He also was removed against Philadelphia on Dec. 30, when Chad Johnson relieved him…Brandon Prust’s goal to tie last night’s the game at 3 in the second was his first as a Ranger. He was acquired with Olli Jokinen from Calgary in the Chris Higgins-Ales Kotalik deal. Jody Shelley, who took the initial shot, was credited with his first assist as a Blueshirt…Shelley and Pierre-Luc Letourneau LeBlond squared off on the faceoff immediately following Bryce Salvador’s goal in the first…Enver Lisin and Aaron Voros were the healthy scratches…The Rock’s public address man goofed badly when honoring Olympians playing in the game. He announced that Team Slovakia’s Gaborik  played for the Czech Republic.
                       Before the game, coach John Tortorella said that looking at the standings, where the Rangers lie in ninth place, was unavoidable. “You can’t help but not to, the way things have worked out in the East,” Tortorella said. “We can look at it, and I do too, but there’s no sense because if we don’t take care of our own business, we’re not going to get in (the playoffs).”

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