The Hudson River Rivalry is alive and well.
Before last season, the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers seemed destined to become courteous rivals. On the ice, the games were still tough. But the snarl was gone, replaced with an almost polite approach. The Rangers took over the rivalry, going 23-13-5 against the Devils since the start of the 2006 season.
That all ended last year.
The nastiness returned to the rivalry, with fights in five of the six regular season meetings. Things exploded in the final game of the season, with the fourth lines dropping the gloves just three seconds after the opening faceoff. That would be the tip of the iceberg.
The two rivals met in the Eastern Conference Finals, battling for seven games. Tensions exploded once again in Game 4, when Mike Rupp punched an unsuspecting Martin Brodeur. That led to Pete DeBoer and John Tortorella screaming at each other between the benches, an added element to the already fierce rivalry.
New Jersey went on to defeat New York in six games, winning its first Eastern Conference title since 2003. It was a statement series, one that announced the rivalry was still very much alive.
The two teams will meet for the first time this season tonight at the Prudential Center.
It’s the first of a three game homestand for New Jersey (4-1-3), who return to The Rock after blanking the New York Islanders, 3-0, Sunday at Nassau Coliseum. Steve Bernier broke a scoreless tie in the third period, netting two goals just over a minute apart. David Clarkson also scored an empty-net goal for the Devils, who defeated the Islanders for the second time this season.
Johan Hedberg stopped 22 shots, recording his first shutout of the season. It was also his eighth as a member of the Devils.
The Rangers (4-4-0) have won three of its last five games, the most recent a 3-2 defeat of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Martin Biron, making his first start of the season, held Tampa Bay to its lowest goal total of the season. He stopped 30 of 32 shots in the win.Derek Stepan, Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin scored for New York.
Marian Gaborik leads the Rangers in points (8) and goals (5) heading into the matchup. The right wing recorded a hat trick earlier this season, but has failed to score in three straight games. Nash, the Rangers prized offseason acquisition, leads New York with five assists.
Clarkson has recorded a point in eight of the Devils nine games this season, and enters tonight the team leader in goals (5) and points (9). Patrik Elias leads the team with five assists.
Henrik Lundqvist has started seven of the team’s eight games this season, compiling a 3-4-0 record with a 2.78 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.
This is the first of four meetings between the two rivals. Here’s a look at last season’s matchup:
December 20, 2011: Rangers – 4, Devils – 1 @ Prudential Center
The Rangers took care of business in the first game. New Jersey struck first, with Travis Zajac netting an even-strength score in the first period. New York tied things in the middle frame, with Artem Anisimov getting the score. The Rangers then controlled the third period, scoring three straight goals – including two from Gaborik – to skate away with the win. Brodeur finished with 17 saves on 20 shots. Lundqvist stopped 30 of 31 shots in the win.
In a preview of things to come, former teammates Cam Janssen and Mike Rupp fought just three seconds into the game. Clarkson and Brandon Dubinksy dropped the gloves just 1:44 later, and Eric Boulton and Ryan Callahan each received misconduct penalties.
January 31, 2012: Devils – 4, Rangers – 3 (SO) @ Prudential Center
New Jersey defended its home ice in the second meeting, beating New York in a shootout to even the season series. Anton Stralman, who attended training camp with the Devils, scored a late first period goal, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Zach Parise evened the score, 1-1, in the second period. The two teams traded scores in the third, with Brian Boyle and Michael Del Zotto netting goals for New York and Ilya Kovalchuk and Clarkson getting on the board for New Jersey. That left the game tied, 3-3, after regulation. Kovalchuk was the only skater to score in the shootout, beating Biron in the first round. Brodeur stopped 23 of 26 shots, and was perfect in the shootout.
February 7, 2012: Devils – 1, Rangers – 0 @ Madison Square Garden
New Jersey took the first game between the two teams at MSG, blanking New York. Clarkson was the only player to score, tallying the game-winning power-play goal at 8:14 of the first period. From there, Brodeur shut the door, stopping all 30 Rangers shots. Lundqvist was the tough luck loser, making 21 saves. The two teams combined for 34 penalty minutes, including two fights off the faceoff. Janssen, Boulton, Rupp and Brandon Prust fought just two seconds into the game,
February 27, 2012: Rangers – 2, Devils – 0 @ Madison Square Garden
The Rangers flipped the script during the second meeting at MSG, keeping the Devils off the scoreboard. Hagelin’s first period tally would stand throughout the game, and Callahan added an empty-net insurance goal late in the third. Lundqvist stopped all 13 Devils shots he faced, while Brodeur allowed the one goal on 14 shots. In another rough and tumble game, the Devils and Rangers combined for 42 penalty minutes in the second period. Prust, Boulton, and Dubinksy all received fighting majors, and Clarkson was charged with 19 penalty minutes.
March 6, 2012: Devils – 4, Rangers – 1 @ Prudential Center
The Devils and Rangers continued to alternate wins and losses in the fourth meeting between the two rivals. Kovalchuk and Stepan scored goals in the first forty minutes, sending the game into the third period tied, 1-1. New Jersey took over from there, with Clarkson, Ryan Carter and Elias netting third period goals to defeat New York. Brodeur stopped 25 shots in the win, and Lundqvist posted an identical 25 saves in the loss.
The two rivals once again dropped the gloves, as Carter, Dubinsky, Janssen and John Scott received fighting majors.
March 19, 2012: Rangers – 4, Devils – 2 @ Madison Square Garden
The final regular season meeting between the two teams ended as one of the most memorable for both squads. This game infamously began with the line brawl right after the opening faceoff, with the fourth liners from both teams dropping the gloves. Dubinsky scored the game’s first goal, giving New York a 1-0 lead after one period. The two squads traded goals in the second period, leaving the Devils trailing, 3-2, after the third period. Stepan would insure the win, scoring the Rangers’ fourth goal in the final period. Lundqvist finished with 20 saves on 22 shots. Brodeur stopped 23 shots in the loss.
Eastern Conference Finals – Game 1
May 14, 2012: Rangers – 3, Devils – 0 @ Madison Square Garden
New Jersey, fresh off a five-game defeat of the Philadelphia Flyers, found themselves on the wrong end of a shutout in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Scoreless after two periods, New York exploded for three goals in the third. Dan Girardi, Chris Kreider and Anisimov all scored for the Rangers, sending them to an early lead in the series. Lundqvist finished the win with 21 saves. Brodeur allowed two goals on 25 shots.
Eastern Conference Finals – Game 2
May 16, 2012: Devils – 3, Rangers – 2 @ Madison Square Garden
The Devils bounced back in Game 2, defeating the Rangers to even the series. Kovalchuk scored a first period goal, giving New Jersey the early advantage. New York would erase that deficit in the second period, with Marc Staal and Kreider giving the Rangers a one-goal lead. Carter would answer for the Devils, evening the score at 2-2 in the middle period. Clarkson scored the game-winner, beating Lundqvist in the third period. Brodeur bounced back to stop 23 shots. Lundqvist finished with 24 saves.
Eastern Conference Finals – Game 3
May 19, 2012: Rangers – 3, Devils – 0 @ Prudential Center
The Rangers once again shut out the Devils, this time at the Prudential Center, to take a 2-1 series lead. Lundqvist was once again unbeatable, stopping 36 shots. Third period goals from Girardi, Kreider and Callahan helped New York break a scoreless tie. Brodeur finised with 19 saves.
Eastern Conference Finals – Game 4
May 21, 2012: Devils – 4, Rangers – 1 @ Prudential Center
As they did in Game 2, New Jersey bounced back with a strong offensive effort to even the series. Bryce Salvador and Zajac broke through in the first period, giving the Devils a 2-0 advantage after one period. It would stay that way until the third period, when Parise scored two goals. Ruslan Fedotenko netted the lone goal for the Rangers. Brodeur stopped 28 shots in the win. Lundqvist made 26 saves in the loss.
The game was also infamous for the screaming match between Devils head coach Pete DeBoer and Rangers head coach John Tortorella. In the third period, after a stoppage in play, Rupp skated near the Devils crease and pushed Brodeur in the chest. That sent the Devils goalie falling backwards, using the crossbar to hold him up. As players paired off on the ice, Tortorella and DeBoer moved to the ends of their benches, leaning over the opening to scream at one another.
Eastern Conference Finals – Game 5
May 23, 2012: Devils – 5, Rangers – 3 @ Madison Square Garden
The Devils offense exploded again in Game 5, hanging five goals on Lundqvist and the Rangers to push New York to the brink of elimination. Stephen Gionta, Zajac and Elias all scored within the first ten minutes of the game, giving New Jersey an early 3-0 lead. Prust would score for the Rangers, ending the run and sending the Rangers to the dressing room trailing, 3-1. New York closed the gap in the second period, with Ryan Callahan cutting the deficit to 3-2. They completed the comeback just 17 seconds into the third period, with Gaborik evening the score. New Jersey rebounded, with Carter and Parise scoring to give New Jersey a 5-3 win. Despite allowing three goals, Brodeur outplayed Lundqvist, stopping 25 shots. The Rangers goalie managed just 12 saves in the loss.
Eastern Conference Finals – Game 6
May 25, 2012: Devils – 3, Rangers – 2 (OT) @ Prudential Center
The two teams saved the best game for last. New Jersey raced out an early lead, with Carter and Kovalchuk scoring first period goals to give the Devils a 2-0 lead after one period. The Rangers responded in the second, tying the game with goals from Fedotenko and Callahan. The two teams remained deadlocked for the third period, heading into the first overtime of the series. That’s when Adam Henrique would score one of the memorable goals in franchise history, crashing the crease and knocking a loose puck past Lundqvist to send New Jersey to the Stanley Cup Finals. Brodeur stonewalled a desperate Rangers team, stopping 33 of 35 shots. Despite the loss, Lundqvist played well, stopping 23 shots.