The Devils exploded for a pair of goals less than two minutes apart early in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie and skate to a 4-1 victory over the Rangers Tuesday night at the Prudential Center. The Rangers remain eight points up on Pittsburgh for first place in the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division.
David Clarkson had a shot by Petr Sykora deflect off his leg and past Henrik Lundqvist 2:27 into the third period as the Devils regained the lead 2-1. The goal was Clarkson's 26th of the season, and was unfortunate for Lundqvist who was moving one way when the puck deflected the other.
Then at 4:21 Ryan Carter buried an odd-man feed from Jacob Josefsson after a Dan Girardi giveaway to give the Devils a two-goal cushion. Patrick Elias scored into the empty net with 1:53 to play to ice the game.
The two teams reached the second intermission deadlocked at one goal apiece. The Rangers rebounded after allowing Ilya Kovalchuk to score just 49 seconds into the game, and eventually pulled even on Derek Stepan's goal 6:56 into the second period.
In between Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur put on a goaltending clinic at both ends of the ice. Lundqvist's highlights included a pair of rapid-fire stops in the final seconds of the opening period against a wide-open Kovalchuk during a Devils power play, and a lunging toe save against Kovalchuk during a Devils second period power play. Meanwhile Brodeur was at his best tested often during the Rangers' 14-shot second period, with one sequence seeing him stone Brian Boyle and Stu Bickel back to back, and another where he denied Ryan Callahan on a break in after a perfect lead pass from Marian Gaborik.
Callahan returned to the lineup after a three-game absence due to a sore and swollen right foot. John Mitchell was scratched to make room for Callahan. In addition, Steve Eminger played for the first time in seven games, replacing Anton Stralman in the Bleushirts lineup.
Kovalchuk opened the scoring on the game's first shift, taking advantage when Ryan McDonagh fell down in his own end. The Russian sniper zipped a forehand shot past Lundqvist for his 26th goal of the season, and incredibly his first in ten games.
Stepan scored from the high slot on a one-timer after Carl Hagelin fed the puck out front from behind the net. The goal was the 15th for Stepan this season, second in as many games, and fourth in the last nine games.
The first period featured a pair of fights, one of which proved costly for the Rangers when Brandon Dubinsky was knocked out of the game when he injured his hand battling Carter. Dubinsky and Carter fought at 3:03 of the first period, and Dubinsky immediately left the ice and did not return to the game.
John Scott also engaged Cam Janssen in his first fight as a Ranger 12:32 into the opening period.