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• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The calendar might have read Jan. 12, but the Rangers and New Jersey Devils played much more like it was April, May, or June on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
After 65 minutes of scoreless, yet scintillating, hockey, the Rangers and Devils went through four full rounds of the shootout before New Jersey emerged with a 1-0 victory.
“It was a typical Rangers-Devils game, I think,” said Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “It had a lot of energy. And when the players are into it that much and the crowd is feeling it, and there are opportunities both ways, it’s a good night for hockey. It was fun to play in it.”
Patrik Elias was the only player for either team to score in the shootout, beating Lundqvist up high as New Jersey’s fourth, and final, shooter. Despite the loss, the Rangers earned an all-important point in the standings by extending the game past 60 minutes. The Blueshirts are now 8-1-4 in their last 13 games, picking up points in seven straight outings.
“It was a helluva’ game,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “I thought we played a really good game. Of course we want the second point, and eventually we need to start getting that, but we played a helluva’ hockey game.”
Lundqvist finished with a career-high 45 saves, not including his stops on Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Travis Zajac in the shootout. He also tied his career high for the most shots faced in one game. He had last faced 45 shots in an Oct. 18, 2008, game at Detroit.
New Jersey's Martin Brodeur countered with 51 saves for the Devils, and was a perfect 4-for-4 in the shootout. His 51 stops were the most he has ever made in any of his NHL-record 107 career shutouts.
“It’s frustrating, for sure,” said Lundqvist. “But it was a good shot (by Elias). I’ll be thinking about it tonight.”
During the five-minute overtime period that preceded the shootout, both teams pressed for the victory. The Rangers fired six shots in the extra session, including a pair by Marian Gaborik 50 seconds into overtime that seemed destined for goals if not for acrobatic sprawling stops by Brodeur. The Devils took four shots in overtime, with Lundqvist calmly holding them at bay.
Skating at a wicked pace from the first drop of the puck, and exchanging scoring chances at will, the Rangers and Devils played a classic regular-season contest, full of passion and grit on both sides. The coaches matched their top lines against one another, both fourth lines contributed huge minutes, and goaltenders Lundqvist and Brodeur were both superb.
The only thing missing from the great end-to-end action over the first half of the game was special-teams play. Neither the Rangers nor the Devils took a penalty for the first half of the contest, and, in fact, there were very few play stoppages of any kind as the two clubs skated hard and strong through all three zones.
During the first period -- in which the Rangers outshot the visitors by 13-10 -- the two teams went more than ten minutes between play stoppages. The Rangers iced the puck on the game’s first shift and the next whistle came at the 11:39 mark of the opening period when Brodeur froze the puck after an outstanding shift by the Blueshirts’ fourth line.
The first half of the second period was much the same as the two clubs traded scoring chances, usually off solid forechecks in their respective offensive zones, and Lundqvist and Brodeur took turns sparkling in goal.
Finally after a terrific hard-working shift in the Devils’ end, Parise was whistled for a holding penalty at 10:25 of the second. With momentum clearly on their side following earlier prime scoring chances by Chris Drury, Matt Gilroy, Christopher Higgins, and Brandon Dubinsky and a pair of thunderous hits by Sean Avery and Marc Staal, the Rangers headed to the power play.
The Devils, however, not only killed off the penalty with relative ease, the Rangers’ power play was cut short when Erik Christensen was penalized for roughing Langenbrunner, and Dubinsky was simultaneously called for a slashing penalty, at 12:04.
Faced with a brief 4-on-3 disadvantage followed by 1:39 of a two-man disadvantage, the Rangers brought The Garden Faithful to their collective feet with a rousing successful kill. Staal and Drury were on the ice for the entire penalty kill, while Ryan Callahan and Higgins switched off as the third penalty killer.
Lundqvist made a succession of strong saves on tight in Parise, Brian Rolston, and Elias during the 5-on-3. Callahan and Higgins both made big plays by clearing the puck out of the Rangers zone on two different occasions.
The second period ended with 30 shots taken -- 18 by the Rangers -- and no goals scored thanks to the combined excellence of Lundqvist and Brodeur. Brian Boyle, who played one of his best games of the season, had the best scoring chance for either side when he skated in on a breakaway against Brodeur 9:44 into the middle period. Brodeur, though, made a sharp right-pad save on Boyle’s forehand attempt.
“I thought we tested Marty pretty good,” said Christensen. “He’s the best in the world for a reason. And we have one of the best on the world, too, so it was just a classic match-up.”
Avery and Brodeur met face-to-face, jawing at one another midway through the second, to renew their long-running rivalry. And Boyle, Callahan, Staal, and Donald Brashear impressed with their physical play.
Staal’s signature hit came at center-ice 7:10 into the second period when his shoulder check separated Langenbrunner from his helmet.
Both teams went for the win in the third period. Lundqvist was forced to make huge saves on Parise and Langenbrunner seven minutes into the period. He also came up big seven minutes later when he stoned Parise twice from close range.
Brodeur actually thought he had been beaten by a Michal Rozsival right-point slap shot 8:22 into the period. Though he looked behind him, Brodeur had the puck safely squeezed between his pads. He did the same thing in overtime on a left-wing Rozsival blast.
At the final buzzer Brodeur was able to glove down Michael Del Zotto’s slap shot through a crowd in front, forcing overtime.
“I know it was a great game, and I think we showed a lot tonight, but right now I just feel bitter about the way it ended,” said Christensen. “It was exciting, and I think the fans liked it and appreciated the effort of the team.”
The Rangers return to action on Thursday night when they host the Ottawa Senators at MSG.
|Zach Parise Holding against Erik Christensen|
|Erik Christensen Roughing against Jamie Langenbrunner|
|Brandon Dubinsky Slashing against Travis Zajac|
|Brian Rolston Tripping against Michael Del Zotto|
|SA: 51||TOI: 65:00|
|Saves: 51||EV: 47 - 47|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 4|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 45||TOI: 64:57|
|Saves: 45||EV: 41 - 41|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 3|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 1 - 1|