It took the fourth round of the shootout in the eighth game of the season series for the Devils to finally beat the Rangers this season. Patrik Elias ripped a shot high off the cross bar in the fourth round to lift the Devils to a 3-2 shootout victory yesterday afternoon at the Prudential Center to ensure them of home ice advantage in their first round match with the Rangers, which commences on Wednesday night.
Although there wasn’t much to play for in this 82nd and last game of the regular season, both clubs gave a huge effort in this very entertaining affair. For the Rangers, it didn’t really matter which team gets home ice as there is plenty of support for them on both sides of the river. But they did their best to win it in regulation and came up just a bit short. In a move rarely seen, Tom Renney pulled Henrik Lundqvist for extra attacker late in the third period with the score tied at two, but the move made no difference.
The Devils came out strong and carried the play in the first period, out-shooting the Rangers 11-2. Goals by John Madden at 4:26 (his 20th) and Michael Rupp (just his third for the game’s first star) at 12:57 gave the home team a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. That kind of advantage against the Devils usually spells doom for the opponent.
But the Rangers weren’t going away quietly. Chris Drury halved the margin only 19 seconds in with his 25th goal of the season for the only tally of the middle frame. When Jaromir Jagr reached the same plateau (a career low season total) early in the third period, the game was deadlocked at two. But the Rangers couldn’t beat Martin Brodeur again and the Devils were stymied by Lundqvist for the last 40 minutes of regulation. Zach Parise was stopped by the Rangers netminder on two separate occasions in the final frame in stunning fashion. Both times, he had a wide open net to shoot at, but somehow Lundqvist got there in time.
The scoreless overtime led to an anticlimactic shootout. Scott Gomez beat Brodeur with a backhander in the third round for the first tally but Parise saved the day on his attempt. After Fredrik Sjostrom missed, Elias netted the game-winner.
The Rangers closed out the season with consecutive shootout losses and finished in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 97 points. Lundqvist (25 saves) extended his streak of allowing two goals or less versus the Devils to 17 games. Brodeur made 17 saves in a winning effort.