Martin Brodeur did it again last night at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, stopping all 26 shots he faced and shutting out the New York Rangers 1-0; it was his league-leading eighth shutout (out of 28 wins on the season) and 88th of his storied career. The all-world netminder was facing the best the Rangers had to offer in Henrik Lundqvist and he did not disappoint, as he repelled all but one of the 32 shots fired at him. But this goaltending duel went to the remarkable Brodeur and now the Devils have a huge ten point lead on the Rangers for the Atlantic Division crown. It’s apparent that the Rangers must now concentrate on just qualifying for a playoff spot, because there are many teams nipping at their heels for the last few positions in the Eastern Conference.
The only goal of the game was scored by defenseman Brad Lukowich (unassisted) at 9:42 of the opening period (his first goal in 20 games). He shot the puck from the point through a maze of players in front of Lundqvist and it somehow found its way through all those sticks and legs and crawled over the goal line. Lundqvist was completely screened and had no chance of seeing the puck until it was too late. It was a very innocent-looking play and for Rangers’ fans, a tough way to give up a goal, especially when it’s the game-winner.
But teams know that when they face the Devils, the worst thing you can do is give up the first one, because with Brodeur standing in between you and the goal line, one goal is all you may need on any given night. That’s not to say that the Rangers didn’t have their chances; they had several glorious scoring opportunities, but Brodeur turned each one aside. Marek Malik even clanked one off the post early in the first.
Jaromir Jagr was again rendered totally ineffective throughout the game; he managed just one shot on goal (in the third period). The Devils did not incur any minor penalties and having no power-plays certainly didn’t help the Rangers potent offense whatsoever. The Blueshirts are off until Saturday afternoon when they play the Atlanta Thrashers at MSG; it’s their final game before the All-Star break.