Rangers-Devils Game 6: The Miracle on Mulberry Street
Saturday, May 26, 2012
By Stan Fischler
That’s the New Jersey war cry up and down The Rock on Mulberry Street as the Devils -- defying all odds -- gained a berth in the Stanley Cup Final on Friday night in Newark.
From now until Wednesday, when they play host to Los Angeles, coach Pete DeBoer’s astonishing skaters will savor rookie Adam Henrique’s sudden-death goal from a mad scramble with only 1:03 gone in the extra session of Game Six.
“Johnny on the spot for that one,” said Henrique. “I couldn’t see the puck. I was just praying it was going to come under Henrik Lundqvist’s pad. It’s what you dream about.”
Then, a pause. “But we’re not done yet.”
DeBoer enthused about Henrique’s clutch play. “Unflappable. The kid manages to be in the right place, at the right time, all the time.
“Our two biggest goals of the playoffs -- the first was the series-winner in OT against Florida -- have come off his stick. That’s not an accident.”
Once again, the Garden State skaters showed admirable resiliency after blowing a two-goal lead in the second period. They bent but they didn’t break, thanks to Martin Brodeur’s indefatigable goaltending and a solid defense.
“It’s an amazing feeling, that’s for sure,” said defenseman Bryce Salvador. “It’s one step closer to everyone’s dream in here.”
Ryan Carter and Ilya Kovalchuk -- on a power play -- had put the Devils ahead in the first period, but the Blueshirts rebounded on middle-period red lights from Ruslan Fedotenko and Ryan Callahan.
It appeared as if the Rangers would eventually pull ahead. Even their coach thought his team was going to prevail.
How did the Rangers' season crash so soon in the sudden-death period? It started with a move by Alexei Ponikarovsky after his line that included Kovalchuk and Henrique forechecked their way into the Rangers zone.
The Blueshirts had their two best defenders, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, on against the Devils' onslaught, but they were unable to cope with New Jersey’s persistent attack.
“I just spun around and shot,” said Ponikarovsky of the winning play. “Good things happen when you go to the net. And Adam was right there behind the goalie to put it in.”
Pivotal to the Devils' victory was Brodeur, at the age of 40, remarkably out-dueling Lundqvist over the past three games.
“Marty gives us a chance to win every game,” said captain Zach Parise. “He’s been through this all before and has the ability to calm the bench down … He’s a huge reason why we’re still playing.”
No less incredible was the fact that the Devs defeated the Blueshirts three straight times to gain Final Round for the first time since 2003 -- when they won The Cup.
For the Rangers, a team that appeared destined for a Cup run, the disappointment couldn’t be overstated.
“It’s the worst feeling you can feel,” said Callahan. “They ended up being the better team.”
As they demonstrated throughout the series, New Jersey’s skaters continually out-forechecked the Rangers and once again came out buzzing in the first period, swarming the New York zone.
And at 10:05, the Devils' fourth-line produced yet another goal.
The play started when Steve Bernier chipped the puck around Rangers defenseman Marc Staal on the Devils blue line along the left boards.
Bernier dished to Stephen Gionta, who skated in on a breakaway. Gionta’s backhand attempt was denied by Lundqvist, but the puck was quickly deposited by Ryan Carter to give the home club the 1-0 advantage.
“Bernier made a great play getting the puck in there and Carts followed it up,” explained Gionta. “Keeping it simple has been working so far, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Moments later, Carter drew a tripping call on Fedotenko and New Jersey’s second power play unit diagramed a picture-perfect passing play to double the lead.
From the right point, Peter Harrold passed to Henrique at the right side boards. The rookie then fed the puck to David Clarkson between the circles.
Clarkson then relayed the rubber to Zubrus at the right post. Kovalchuk worked his way down to the left post, and after receiving a sharp pass from Zubrus, snapped the puck past Lundqvist’s right arm.
“It’s been critical for us the entire playoffs -- dictating play right way,” said DeBoer. “It’s given us an opportunity to build a cushion and we’ve needed it.”
As they did in Game Five, the Rangers dictated play from the start in the middle period, forcing DeBoer to use his timeout at the 4:39 mark.
New York’s efforts eventually paid off 9:47 into the period. Defenseman McDonagh fought off Harrold as he skated behind the Devils cage. The defenseman jammed the puck off Brodeur and Fedotenko was left all alone to bury the rebound.
The Blueshirts tied the count moments later when Brandon Dubinsky beat Henrique on a faceoff from the left circle. Dan Girardi’s shot from the right point deflected off Callahan’s leg and past Brodeur’s left pad. The time was 13:31.
At this point, the Devils were reeling and had all to do to escape the period with a 2-2 tie.
“You can’t get too low or too high, it’s a long game,” said Gionta. “It took longer than 60 minutes tonight but it’s a hard-fought win and it feels awesome.”
New Jersey killed off an interference penalty on Carter midway through the third period. While shorthanded, Marty stacked his pads and made a brilliant stop on Brad Richards’ shot from the slot.
In retrospect, it was the save of the series; especially since it was against Richards, whose play was a disappointment for the Blueshirts when the chips were down.
Brodeur came up with another critical denial shortly after, when he poke-checked the puck away from Artem Animisov who skated into the offensive zone on a partial breakaway.
The Devils held fast as the third period ended, needing the respite more than the visitors.
“I thought it was going to end quick in overtime,” said Tortorella. “I thought it would be us… They made a good play at the end.”
But DeBoer had other thoughts and they panned out in the end for his club.
“We wanted to get back and re-establish our forecheck (going into overtime),” said DeBoer. “We caught them on a line change there and we found a way to jam one in.”
The red light went on when Henrique found a loose puck in a mass of humanity deep in the crease and slotted it home as Richards desperately tried to make the save.
“It was a scramble,” explained McDonagh. “You have to find some way to get that goal and the Devils did.”
At the end, the two coaches, who had a heated exchange during the season and in Game Four, shook hands near the benches.
Asked what Tortorella said to him, DeBoer offered this. “He was very classy. He came over and shook my hand. There was nothing more than that.”
Despite the crushing defeat, Torts remains optimistic about his club.
“I love what we have here. We didn’t get it done but I liked the way (my team) handled themselves.”
DeBoer now has five days to prepare for the Kings, as improbable a finalist as his Devils.
“Who they’ve beaten and how they’ve beaten them speaks for itself,” concluded DeBoer. “We’re looking forward to the challenge.”