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• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers erased three one-goal deficits against the Devils on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center, but they were never able to take a lead, and as a result, they dropped a tough 6-3 decision to their Hudson River rivals.
Henrik Lundqvist, who entered the game with a lifetime 1.75 goals-against average against the Devils, surrendered five goals on 17 shots before being lifted from the game late in the second period. It was the first time in 29 career starts against the Devils that Lundqvist had been removed from a game.
The loss extended the Rangers’ overall winless streak to four games (0-2-2), while the Devils snapped a two-game skid with the win.
“It was just a tough night for me,” said Lundqvist. “Pucks were hitting our guys, their guys. I tried to be square, but the puck kept finding a way in. I’m not going to analyze too much, just get ready for the next one.”
Eight different Devils recorded two-point games, including captain Jamie Langenbrunner who scored the eventual game-winning goal with 6:54 to go in the second period. Martin Brodeur stopped 16 shots in goal for the Devils.
“We played in spurts, as we have done most of the year,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We’ve been good at times, and we have been inconsistent at times. And it was the same tonight.”
By time the game was half over the Rangers had already wiped out a trio of one-goal leads by the Devils. However, the Devils scored twice in the latter half of the second period to snap a 3-3 tie and grab a 5-3 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Trailing 2-1 entering the middle stanza the Rangers pulled even on a simply gorgeous Erik Christensen goal at 5:01. After receiving an impressive pass from Brandon Dubinsky, Christensen danced around a flat-footed Patrik Elias in the slot, deked Brodeur one way, and then roofed a shot over Brodeur’s right shoulder for his sixth goal of the season.
Zach Parise scored his 31st goal, a power-play marker, at 8:38 to give New Jersey yet another one-goal lead, but the Rangers answered back on the next shift, and it was the fourth line doing the damage for the visitors.
Brandon Prust forechecked Devils defenseman Andy Greene into a turnover behind the net, and then completed the play by potting the rebound of Jody Shelley’s ensuing shot at 9:15, tying the game 3-3. The goal was Prust’s second of the season, and first since being acquired by the Rangers from the Calgary Flames in early February.
It provided a huge jolt of energy to the Rangers bench, but New Jersey quickly regained its composure and scored back-to-back goals several minutes later, driving Lundqvist from the game, while securing its first two-goal lead of the night.
“We couldn’t get the lead,” said Tortorella. “We came back three times, but we couldn’t get the lead. It’s back to the inconsistencies.”
Langenbrunner neatly deflected Mike Mottau’s shot/pass from right wing while cruising through the slot up and over Lundqvist at 13:06 to put the Devils ahead 4-3. And then at 15:19, Brian Rolston converted off a 3-on-1 when his pass deflected off Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, then off Lundqvist’s own stick and between his pads for a 5-3 New Jersey lead.
“Obviously it’s disappointing,” said Girardi. “It’s a tough break there, getting a couple of bad bounces.”
Lundqvist exited the game at that point, and Alex Auld replaced him. Auld stopped all four shots he faced the remainder of the period, including a pair of stellar saves before he even had the chance to break a sweat.
“Once (the Devils) got it to 5-3 there, they’re pretty good at shutting it down,” said Lundqvist. “They didn’t give us much.”
Auld stopped everything he saw until Travis Zajac snuck a shot between his pads with 3:39 left to play in the third period, a goal that closed out the scoring. Auld stopped nine of 10 shots total in relief of Lundqvist.
Both teams capitalized on their few scoring chances in the opening period, exiting the ice after 20 minutes with the Devils holding a 2-1 lead on the scoreboard and an 8-6 advantage in shots on goal.
One minute after Lundqvist made a sensational left-pad save on Langenbrunner’s snap off a rebound from eight feet out, the Devils opened the scoring at 4:16. Again it was a rebound that created the prime scoring opportunity as Rolston whipped a bad-angle shot from along the right-wing goal line that was redirected into the slot by Lundqvist.
Rob Niedermeyer skated into the high slot and zipped the rebound of Rolston’s shot past Lundqvist for his eighth goal of the season, giving New Jersey an early 1-0 lead.
The Rangers answered back less than a minute later as the restructured top line of Olli Jokinen, Marian Gaborik, and Vinny Prospal dazzled with a pretty passing play that resulted in Prospal’s 15th goal at 5:13. Jokinen chased the puck down low, fired a pass to Gaborik in the slot, and then saw Gaborik send a quick feed to Prospal, alone on the doorstep, for a slam-dunk goal.
Gaborik came tantalizingly close to giving the visitors their first lead at 6:19 of the first period when he skated through the slot to corral the rebound of Michael Del Zotto’s shot off the back boards. However his in-close one-timer was denied by Brodeur, who came sliding out of his net to make a sensational save and keep the score tied.
Neither team created many scoring chances over the next 10 minutes or so, but the Devils were able to score again just before the first period came to a close. After a strong forecheck and cycle of the puck in the Rangers’ zone, the Devils worked the puck to defenseman Bryce Salvador at the right point. Salvador cranked up a slap shot, and the puck deflected off Jokinen in the high slot, and redirected past Lundqvist with 1:43 remaining in the period to hand New Jersey a 2-1 lead.
“I thought our first period, although we gave up two goals, was really good,” said Tortorella. “The second period, that’s where we fought it and spent a little too much time in our end zone. Then they just clamped down.”
The Rangers will look to get back on the winning side of the ledger when they play an extremely important game Friday night in Atlanta against the Thrashers before returning home to close out the week with a contest at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers.
|Rob Niedermayer (8) ASST: Brian Rolston (14), Mike Mottau (10)|
1 - 0 NJD
|Vinny Prospal (15) ASST: Marian Gaborik (35), Olli Jokinen (31)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Bryce Salvador (4) ASST: Andy Greene (22), Jamie Langenbrunner (40)|
2 - 1 NJD
|Erik Christensen (6) ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (19), Dan Girardi (11)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Zach Parise (31) ASST: Dainius Zubrus (10), Travis Zajac (36)|
3 - 2 NJD
|Brandon Prust (2) ASST: Jody Shelley (4)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Jamie Langenbrunner (16) ASST: Mike Mottau (11), Andy Greene (23)|
4 - 3 NJD
|Brian Rolston (18) ASST: Rob Niedermayer (12), David Clarkson (10)|
5 - 3 NJD
|Travis Zajac (21) ASST: Dainius Zubrus (11), Zach Parise (36)|
6 - 3 NJD
|Dainius Zubrus Roughing against Ryan Callahan|
|Jody Shelley Fighting against Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond|
|Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond Fighting against Jody Shelley|
|Zach Parise Interference against Chris Drury|
|Wade Redden Hooking against Zach Parise|
|Travis Zajac Tripping against Chris Drury|
|Jody Shelley Interference against Bryce Salvador|
|Jody Shelley Misconduct|