After the New Jersey Devils loss to Edmonton on Sunday, the Devils’ were on a two-game slide and needed something to change their lethargic play.
Coach Jacques Lemaire cited one thing the Devils needed one thing to get back on track.
After two physically intense days of practice, the Devils responded to the challenge with a win over their rivals, the New York Rangers, 6-3, Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.
“The last two days we’ve been working on the team concept,” Lemaire said. “The guys responded very well to it. I think we played with more intensity. We showed that we really wanted to win tonight, more than I’ve seen lately. We’re headed in the right direction. This is what we want.”
Jamie Langenbrunner broke a 3-3 tie at 13:06 of the second period. After a turnover by the Rangers in their own zone, Patrik Elias passed the puck to Andy Greene at the point. Greene sent the puck cross-ice to defenseman Mike Mottau, who shot the puck toward the net. Langenbrunner tipped the puck past Lundqvist and into the net for his 16th goal of the season.
That score would prove to be the decisive strike, as the Devils went on to score three more goals in the win.
Devils’ center Rob Niedermayer scored the game’s first goal at 4:16 of the first period. Brian Rolston took an awkward angle shot, and the rebound came to Niedermayer in the slot. The center blasted the puck off of Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s right shoulder and into the net for his eighth goal of the season.
The Rangers tied the game 57 seconds later to tie the game at one. Vaclav Prospal set up near the side of the net, and Marian Gaborik found him with a pass. Prospal, who was wide open, put the puck past a diving Martin Brodeur for his 15th goal of the season.
Bryce Salvador’s goal at 18:17 of the first period restored the Devils’ lead. Salvador began the play by keeping the puck in the zone. He took the puck and did a spin-o-rama, passing the puck behind the net to Niedermayer. Niedermayer got knocked down, and Langenbrunner passed the puck to Greene at the right point. Greene passed the puck to Salvador, who one-timed the pass. The puck hit the stick of Ollie Jokinen in front and went in for Salvador’s fourth of the season.
Erik Christensen pulled the Rangers even with the Devils at 5:01 of the second period. Brandon Dubinsky carried the puck into the zone and found Christensen at the point alone. Christensen received the puck and deked around a Devils’ defenseman, putting him alone in the slot. He whipped a shot past Brodeur for his sixth goal of the year.
The seesaw battle continued, with the Devils scoring again to take a lead, 3-2. With Wade Redden in the box for hooking, Brian Rolston took a shot on Lundqvist. Both Dainius Zubrus and Travis Zajac crashed the net, bringing the defensemen with them. The puck slid to the right side of the net, where Zach Parise came untouched and backhanded it into the empty net for his 31st goal of the year.
Just 37 seconds later, Brandon Prust scored to draw the Rangers even. The Rangers’ used their forecheck to force a turnover from Mark Fraser, who tapped a loose puck into the slot. Jody Shelley took a spin-o-rama shot that Brodeur stopped. But Prust worked his way to the front of the net and put the rebound past the Devil’s goalie for his second goal of the year.
The Devils lost three leads, but they showed resiliency, continuing to pressure the Rangers and put shots on Lundqvist.
“Three days ago we might have (crumbled),” said Langenbruner, who scored the eventual game-winning goal at 13:06 of the third period. “But we had a different mindset tonight. We didn’t let those things affect us. You could see it on the bench. It was a tough break on the third goal that they tied it up on, but it was right back, ‘We’re still going to get it.’ And that wasn’t there the last little while when something goes wrong, we were like, ‘Here we go again.’ It was much-better mindset and it I think it showed in the way we played as solid a 60 (minutes) as we have in a long time.”
Rolston extended the Devils lead to two at 15:19 of the second period. After the Devils broke up a 4-on-2 Rangers’ break, they started up ice with a 4-on-1 of their own. Niedermayer passed the puck to Rolston, who held the puck and skated to the right circle. Rolston tried to feed David Clarkson on the crease, but Rangers’ defenseman Dan Girardi dove to deflect the pass. The puck deflected off of Girardi’s stick and went through the pads of Lundqvist and into the back of the net.
Langenbrunner didn’t think chasing Lundqvist was the biggest accomplishment of the game.
“I think the win is the accomplishment,” Langenbrunner said. “I don’t know how many of those you can fault him on. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of going to the net, the way we need to play hockey. I’m sure that was some of them trying to shake things up a bit, too.”
Zajac extended the Devils lead to three goals at 16:21 of the third period. The play began with a turnover by Michael Del Zotto at center ice. Zubrus stripped the rookie defenseman and sent the puck to Zajac, who entered the zone alone. His shot was initially stopped by Auld, but the puck trickled through his pads for Zajac’s 21st goal of the season.
Parise believed tonight’s win was a complete turnaround from Sunday’s disappointing loss.
“It was definitely the opposite,” Parise said of Devils’ play tonight. “There was a lot better energy from everybody, support from the teammates and everybody. It was just a better team atmosphere tonight.”
Brodeur stopped 16 shots for the win.
The Devils won for only the seventh time in the past 21 games (7-12-1). The team closed to within three points of Pittsburgh, who visits the Prudential Center Friday night.
Each line and the powerplay contributed at least a point in tonight’s victory. The third line of Rolston – Niedermayer – Clarkson scored two goals…Langenbrunner recorded his 600th career point on Salvador’s first period goal. He added his 601st point on his game-winning goal…Devils’ enforcer Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond fought Shelley right after the Devils’ second goal. It was Letourneau’s first game back from injured reserve…With the loss, Lundqvist is now 17-7-5 against the Devils in his career.
Photo Credits: Brian Rolston Goal: Mike Stobe/Getty Images, Zach Parise Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images, Henrik Lundqvist Photo: Bill Kostroun/AP Photo.
Quotes lifted from the Fire and Ice Blog by Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti