The Rangers played for the first time since the six-day All Star break Tuesday night at The Prudential Center in Newark, and the Eastern Conference leaders picked up a point in the standings, but dropped a 4-3 decision to the Devils in a game decided by the shootout.
New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk, who is 8-for-9 in the shootout this season, scored the only goal of the shootout, scoring in the opening round against Martin Biron. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur made it stand up by stopping Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, and Marian Gaborik in succession.
Less than a minute after Kovalchuk's power play goal had tied the game, 2-2, late in the third period, Michael Del Zotto zipped a right circle shot under Brodeur's right arm to restore the Blueshirts one-goal advantage. Gaborik set up the play by skating into the offensive zone, curling with the puck on left wing, and then backhanding a pass through a maze of legs to the open Del Zotto, who finished the play off by scoring his sixth goal of the season.
However, a short while later a crazy bounce off the back boards sent the puck out in front to a wide-open David Clarkson in the final minute of play, and Clarkson buried a shot that tied the score, 3-3, with 47.6 seconds left to play in regulation, forcing overtime.
Brian Boyle had given the Rangers a 2-1 lead 2:37 into the third period by sailing a shot over a lunging Brodeur after Stu Bickel's point-shot had hit Boyle in front of the net. The goal was Boyle's fourth of the season, and second in the last seven contests, and after it settled into the net he skated to the side boards, punched the glass , and let out a loud scream.
In a somewhat surprising move, Rangers head coach John Tortorella tabbed Biron to make the start in goal over Henrik Lundqvist, who had made 32 consecutive starts against the Devils dating back to the 2006-07 season, and who has a magnificent 1.82 lifetime goals against average vs. New Jersey. Biron turned in a strong 26-save performance to earn his 10th win in 12 starts this season.
The two teams had skated off the ice after 40 hard-fought minutes of play tied 1-1. And that score held up 50 seconds into the third period thanks to Biron, who made a spectacular save to deny Kovalchuk on a shorthanded breakaway. That save proved to be even more clutch when Boyle put the Rangers back in front less than two minutes later.
The Rangers had taken a 1-0 lead with 32.9 seconds to play in the first period when Anton Stralman followed up a wrist shot by Gaborik and put the rebound past Brodeur for his second goal of the season. The goal had to be a sweet one for Stralman who had attended training camp with the Devils, but was not offered a contract, affording him the chance to sign as a free agent with the Rangers.
New Jersey's Zach Parise tied the game 8:20 into the second period when he roofed a shot from in-tight up and over the outstretched glove of Biron for his 16th goal. Biron then responded with some of his strongest play of the night as the rejuvinated Devils stepped up their attack over the next several minutes.