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Devils-Rangers: Putting the King and His Court in Place

By Stan Fischler
March 6, 2012

If ever there was a New Jersey scourge -- in a hockey sense -- his name is Henrik Lundqvist, alias “The King.”

Over the past few years, his domination of the Devils has bordered on overwhelming, and any visit to The Rock threatened negative news for the locals.

On this Tuesday night, however, the Rangers’ domination took a sabbatical.

Peter DeBoer’s stickhandlers not only defeated New York by a score of 4-1 -- one empty-netter -- but Martin Brodeur out-goaled Lundqvist in this collision of champ stoppers.

“It’s always special when we beat those guys,” enthused Brodeur. “And when I go up against Henrik, it’s another part of this special rivalry.”

Like a conductor opening a symphony with a wave of his baton, Ilya Kovalchuk ignited the Devils’ victory with a goal less than a minute into the game, and David Clarkson capped the triumph with the winning goal early in the final frame.

In addition, there were sub-heroes on the Jersey side, especially defenseman Bryce Salvador, who swept a goal-ward Rangers’ shot out of harm’s way within an inch of the goal line in the third period.

“We’ve been in a little bit of a funk,” said Salvador. “It’s nice to beat one of the best teams in the league.”

To say that the Garden State skaters opened with a bang and a bop would be a reasonable assessment.

The bang was supplied by Kovalchuk, who was sprung on a breakaway inside the Rangers’ blueline. Kovy’s laser beat Lundqvist within 49 seconds of the opening face-off.

The bop -- or should I say bop-bop-bops -- were supplied by the Devils’ Ryan Carter and New York’s Brandon Dubinsky. The middleweight bout featured exchanges by both players, but Carter got the edge. Dubinsky, who apparently was injured in the fight, did not return to the ice for the remainder of the game. Meanwhile, Carter cemented the victory with the Devils’ cushion-third-goal in the third.

More be-bop followed with the main-eventer between middleweight Cam Janssen (5-foot-11, 215) and heavyweight John Scott (6-foot-8, 270). Although Scott outweighed his adversary by 55 pounds and nine inches, Janssen typically hung in and landed a few telling blows of his own.

After 20 minutes of play, New Jersey led in shots, 11-9, while nursing its one-goal lead.

If there was a negative to the Devils’ opening period, it was the club’s inability to cash in on its advantage of territorial play. According to the stat man, the Devils had nine scoring chances to only three by the Rangers. That was dangerous for the Rock-men because they didn’t make better use of their opportunities.

Sure enough, the tide of battle swung the Rangers’ way, and despite several big Brodeur saves, New York broke through on a New Jersey defensive breakdown.

It was Derek Stepan who evened the score with a one-timer from just above the circles beating Brodeur on the blocker side at 6:56.

Just moments earlier, Lundqvist had to stand tall in net, thwarting an Adam Henrique deflection that was headed straight for the five-hole.

If it wasn’t for a Brodeur save on a wide-open Ryan Callahan late in the second period, the Rangers might have taken the lead.

A magnificent melodrama led to the third period with the teams knotted at one, but the Devils wasted no time regaining the momentum.

Clarkson put the Devils back ahead at 2:27. After skating over the Rangers blueline, David dropped a pass for Petr Sykora. Sykora ripped a shot that deflected off Clarkson and past Lundqvist’s outstretched glove.

“It was a special night, especially when you play the Rangers,” said Sykora, “and to beat them at home, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

The Devils wasted little time gaining the two-goal lead that they weren’t able to achieve earlier in the game.

Kovalchuk retrieved the puck in the neutral zone and sprung Jacob Josefson and Carter on a two-on-one with the Rangers’ defense. Josefson waited for the right time to pass the puck over to Carter, who fired the shot high over Lundqvist’s shoulder at 4:21.  The Devils scored two goals in a span of 1:54.

“We knew going into the third that the team that was going to win was going to be the one that battled the hardest,” Carter said.

DeBoer praised the Devils’ defense and said that it was Marek Zidlicky’s best game so far since he joined the team.

“All wins are important, not just this one,” concluded Andy Greene. “Two points are all that matters from here on out.”

The third period was one of the most important for the Devils this season, and they responded with some of their best hockey, constantly pressuring their opponents.

“It all starts with the compete level, and that starts with the first guy, all the way down to Marty,” said Carter.

The Devils next play the Islanders on Thursday night back at The Rock, looking to avenge their 1-0 defeat on Sunday afternoon.

“In my mind, I think the Rangers are a Top-3 team in the league,” said Sykora, “and we showed tonight that we can beat those teams.”

Brodeur, winner of the Tuesday night battle of the goaltenders, understands that the Islanders won’t be pushovers.

“We’ve seen what they can do first hand,” Mr. Goalie concluded, “so we better be ready for them!”


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