Devils rally past Rangers 3-2; series tied 1-1
(AP) - David Clarkson's deflected goal 2:31 into the third period snapped a tie and lifted the New Jersey Devils to a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers that evened the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece on Wednesday night.
Clarkson built off the momentum created by Ryan Carter's goal late in the second period that tied the game, 2-2. Ilya Kovalchuk had given the Devils a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal in the first. Defenseman Bryce Salvador added two assists, and Martin Brodeur stopped 23 saves for the win.
"We had to keep going to the net, and I think we were doing some good things," Clarkson said. "We've been playing some good hockey and we've got to continue to do it. That is a big win for us."
Marc Staal and Chris Kreider scored in the second for the Rangers, who lost their third straight Game 2 after winning the series opener. Top-seeded New York, which had 24 saves by Henrik Lundqvist, hasn't had a two-game lead at any point in these playoffs.
Game 3 will be Saturday in New Jersey.
New Jersey got even at 2 when Salvador wound up for a shot at the blue line and fired a drive that Carter - with his back to the net - brilliantly deflected past Lundqvist with 1:51 left in the second. Marian Gaborik stood up straight in front of Salvador, but didn't drop down as many of his teammates have to try to block the shot. For that, he was pinned to the bench by coach John Tortorella, even through New York's power play in the third.
Gaborik returned to the ice with 8:40 remaining.
The Devils kept the pressure on the Rangers at the start of the third and wiped out the good work New York displayed in the second. After spending much of the first penned in their own end, the Rangers rebounded to erase their early deficit and briefly take the lead thanks to their previously inept power play.
With Alexei Ponikarovsky off for interference, Staal fired a shot that sailed wide of the net and struck the back boards before popping back in front and pinballing into the net off Salvador and Brodeur at 2:23. The goal was originally credited to Derek Stepan, who was in front, but the puck managed to miss him both on the way toward the net and on the bounce back.
Staal nearly netted another moments later when he ripped a drive that Brodeur had to lunge fully to his left to snare with his glove.
Kreider, the rookie from Boston College, scored for the second straight game to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 12:19. Anton Stralman let go a shot from above the right circle that ticked Kreider's stick and fluttered past Brodeur for the rookie's fourth goal. He had to wait to get it because it was first given to Stralman before being changed during a commercial break.
But that was hardly the longest delay of the night. Before Kreider's power-play goal, the action was stopped for about eight minutes as arena workers struggled to get the door to the Devils' penalty box opened. Travis Zajac stood patiently as he waited to have a seat in the box. He even managed to laugh as did New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer and the usually stoic and agitated Tortorella.
Zajac, who first was sent to the Rangers' box, stayed in New Jersey's sin bin for only 1:47 before Kreider scored the Rangers' second power-play goal of the night.
New York registered the first six shots of the period before New Jersey had its first about 8 minutes in, but the teams were even at 17 through 40 minutes.
Lundqvist had a bit of glove magic of his own midway through the second when a shot by Anton Volchenkov was deflected by Kovalchuk but tracked and grabbed by Lundqvist.
The Devils got their elusive first goal of the series, and the all-important lead in the game, when Kovalchuk connected on the power play late in the first period.
After Brian Boyle was sent off for slashing Zach Parise, the Devils continued their puck-possession prowess in the Rangers' end. New Jersey moved the puck all around the zone in search of a clean shot that could get past the diving New York defense and perhaps challenge Lundqvist, who made 21 saves in the series-opening win.
Marek Zidlicky curled with the puck to the center of the blue line and slid a pass down to the left circle to Kovalchuk, who calmly and patiently drifted in and snapped a shot up and under the crossbar in the upper corner of the net for his sixth goal of the playoffs and fourth on the power play.
The Devils didn't record a shot on goal until 6:01 in when Patrik Elias put a wrist shot in on Lundqvist, but New Jersey finished the first period with an 8-5 edge in shots - despite having six more blocked by the Rangers.
Whether Brodeur was kidding or not about wanting Rangers to be injured by blocking shots, the home team wasn't deterred from getting in front of drives. New York forward Brandon Prust was doing a bit of a dance in front of the dangerous Kovalchuk, trying to deny any potential drive, even though he was defending without a stick.
When Kovalchuk finally scored later in the period, he let out a big yell - part celebration and an exclamation of relief - as he skated in front of the glass behind the net.