Make no mistake about it. The reason the Rangers have a commanding two games to none lead in their best of seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with the New Jersey Devils is the superior goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist. As he has done all season long, Lundqvist is outperforming his counterpart, Martin Brodeur by a wide margin.
Last night at the Prudential Center it was Brodeur who blinked first. After 40 minutes of scoreless, typically tense, tight checking and occasionally chippy play, it was the Rangers who took full advantage of the game’s first big mistake, and that’s all the Blueshirts needed. At 4:26 of the final frame, Jaromir Jagr wristed an ordinary shot from sharp angle that banked in off Brodeur’s back for the opening salvo. Brodeur was slightly out of position because Colin White had made contact with him a moment before Jagr released the puck.
After the tally, Brodeur looked up at White in disgust. Regardless, the Rangers were elated and just 23 seconds later, Sean Avery roofed a beautiful shot past Brodeur to double the Rangers lead. He was probably still seething from the first goal and now he had another one to ponder over. Diehard Rangers’ fans, who were delighted with the 2-0 score, filled the arena with derisive chants of “Marty, Marty.”
The two goals were more than enough to earn the victory as the Devils woeful offense continued to stagger. They managed to break up Lundqvist’s shutout at 18:37 (John Madden deflected Patrik Elias’ slap shot through the five-hole) with Brodeur off for an extra skater, but that was it. The Rangers benefited from some questionable officiating very late in the game while they were scrambling to protect their one goal lead.
The Blueshirts have never lost a playoff series when having a 2-0 lead. They will try to make it three straight Sunday night at the Garden.