DEVILS ESCAPE GARDEN WITH 4-2 VICTORY
• GAME PHOTOS
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Ales Kotalik scored a goal and added an assist, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Rangers from falling to New Jersey, as the Devils skated to a 4-2 victory at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
The Rangers erased a two-goal deficit in the second period due in large part to a major shuffling of all four lines by head coach John Tortorella. Kotalik and Enver Lisin benefited the most from all the changes, moving up from the fourth and third lines respectively, and making the most of their increased ice time by energizing the home team.
|Playing with a variety of linemates, Ales Kotalik assisted on the Rangers' first goal and got a goal to tie it at 2-2 in the second period on Thursday night.
• MORE PHOTOS
“When you’re two goals down, you try and change something to change the momentum,” said Kotalik. “In the second period we did the job to come back, but unfortunately they got a lucky bounce. And against a team like New Jersey it’s tough to come back.”
Despite rallying behind the new -- and often ever-changing -- forward line combinations, the Rangers surrendered the only goals of the third period, including one into an empty net, and dropped their second straight on home ice.
“(The juggling of lines) worked for us,” said Vinny Prospal
, who shifted from left wing to center during the game, playing in between Lisin and Marian Gaborik
. “It’s just too bad we had that third goal scored against us.”
With the game tied 2-2 in the third period, New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus somehow was left all alone to Henrik Lundqvist
’s right, and, as a result, was able to tip Zach Parise’s shot from the left wall past the Rangers goaltender to give the Devils a 3-2 lead at the 7:51 mark. The New Jersey goal came after wave after wave of strong Rangers shifts at the other end of the ice.
“I think I cheated too much,” Lundqvist said of the Devils’ game-winning goal. “It is just a really bad goal, unfortunately, at the wrong time.”
Moments after Zubrus’ goal, Lundqvist made a huge stop on Travis Zajac to keep his team in the game after the Devils center broke in past the Blueshirts defense.
The Rangers’ best chance to tie the game came with two minutes remaining in the third period. Ryan Callahan
took a long pass from Gaborik and scooted towards the Devils net. However, before he could shoot the puck, Devils defenseman Colin White made a great poke-check to knock it out of harm’s way.
“You know how I feel about him,” Tortorella said of Callahan. “I think he’s going to be a huge part of the team, but for some reason it’s just not happening for him, and he tends to be caught right now when he’s breaking in. I believe he’s going to bounce back, but we need him to getting going now.”
Parise scored his second goal of the night -- and team-high fifth of the season -- into an empty net with 40.2 seconds left to ice the game for New Jersey.
“As much as you like beating these guys, you hate to lose against them, too,” said Lundqvist, who is now 16-6-4 lifetime against the Devils.
After spotting the Devils a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Rangers roared back to score a pair of goals in the second to pull even on the scoreboard after 40 minutes of play.
Just 1:47 into the middle stanza, Gaborik ripped a power-play shot through the dual screen created by Callahan and Prospal in front to bring the Rangers back within one. Gaborik’s team-high seventh goal of the season was largely created by the play and hustle of Prospal, who won the offensive-zone faceoff back to Kotalik and then charged to the front of the net to screen Martin Brodeur.
Kotalik, who like Prospal earned an assist on Gaborik’s goal, netted his fourth of the season with 5:35 left to play in the second period to tie the game 2-2. After Lundqvist made a sensational save to deny Zubrus’ hard wrist shot from 15 feet out, defenseman Dan Girardi
collected the loose puck and fired a home run pass up right wing to Kotalik at the Devils’ blueline. Kotalik corralled the perfect feed and broke in alone, beating Brodeur to the glove side with a hard snap shot.
In the closing seconds of the period, the energized Rangers desperately tried to push the go-ahead goal past Brodeur, with Prospal’s aggressive wrap-around attempt coming the closest to achieving that goal. When the buzzer sounded to signal the end of the second period, the Rangers had not only scored both goals of the second period, they had had outshot New Jersey 13-6.
“We came back, but we didn’t finish the job,” said Lisin.
Looking to get off to a strong start after Monday’s 7-3 loss to the Sharks, the Rangers forechecked aggressively and were very physical over the first several shifts of the game. Sean Avery
brought the crowd to its collective feet when he dropped the gloves with New Jersey’s Mike Motteau at 5:26 of the first and engaged in a long, spirited fight.
However, the Devils seized momentum of the opening period shortly after the fight when Parise broke in behind the Rangers defense and beat Lundqvist to the glove side with a wicked forehand shot at 6:11.
Rob Niedermayer and Jamie Langenbrunner combined on a quick passing play in the neutral zone to spring Parise behind Marc Staal
and Girardi, resulting in Parise’s fourth goal of the season.
Thirty seconds later Lundqvist stoned David Clarkson from in-close to keep the Rangers’ deficit at one goal. Lundqvist performed another act of thievery at 13:42 when he was just able to get his glove on Brian Rolston’s rising shot off another odd-man break into the Rangers’ zone.
There was nothing Lundqvist could do to stop the Devils’ second goal of the night, though, at 15:10 of the opening period. Staal lost the puck at center ice to New Jersey’s Travis Zajac, and then could not get back in time to stop Nicklas Bergfors from gliding through the low slot to redirect Clarkson’s left-wing pass up and over Lundqvist’s shoulder for his first goal of the season.
“The first two goals, we had our people back, but they just flew right by us,” said Tortorella.
Lundqvist received much more support in the second period. Not only did the Blueshirts score a pair of goals to tie the game, but they consistently showed extra effort to make strong plays in their own end.
Seven minutes into the second, veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival
covered for his partner, Michael Del Zotto
, who was caught up ice, by breaking up a Devils’ 2-on-1 rush in the Rangers’ zone. A little more than a minute later, Lisin burst back into his own defensive zone to deflect a drop pass to the trailer on a 3-on-2 New Jersey rush, thwarting another good scoring opportunity for the visitors.
Brodeur received some quality help, as well, from his teammates during the second period. In particular defenseman Bryce Salvador came through for his goaltender, first diving to block a powerful Chris Drury
slap shot at 6:05 and then making a perfect poke-check at the last instant to deny Artem Anisimov
a prime chance to score from in front at 12:26.
“Obviously he is one of the greatest goaltenders ever to play,” Kotalik said of Brodeur, who finished with 29 saves. “We got some good chance son him, but he made some great saves. But we’ve got to get traffic on him, too. We didn’t get enough of that.”
The Rangers return to action on Saturday night when they play the “Hockey Night in Canada” game at Montreal against the Canadiens. The Blueshirts have won three of four road contests so far this season.
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