Dainius Zubrus scored with 2:55 to play in the third period and the New Jersey Devils snapped the Rangers three-game winning streak, handing New York a 3-2 home-ice defeat Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Dan Girardi, who minutes earlier had tied the game with a goal of his own, blocked Zubrus' original shot from the low slot, but Zubrus collected the puck after it bounced off both Girardi and Ryan McDonagh and hammered the rebound past Henrik Lundqvist to give the Devils the lead. It was the third--and final---time which New Jersey had secured a one-goal advantage on the night.
The Devils, who are now 5-2-2 in their last nine games, received a 33-save performance in goal from Martin Brodeur, who had earned shutouts in each of his two prior starts entering play Tuesday. Jeff Carter also scored his first two goals of the season for New Jersey.
Lundqvist made 25 saves for the Rangers, who are now 4-3-0 at The Garden this season, and who have lost twice to the Devils overall. Chris Kreider notched a pair of assists, and now has recorded ten points (2-8-10) in 11 games played this season.
Trailing 2-1, and with the clock beginning to wind down in the third period, the Rangers pulled even as Girardi scored his first goal of the season---and first in 25 games dating back to April 13th of last season. Kreider slipped a left wing pass back to Girardi, and from just inside the blueline the Blueshirts defenseman wristed a shot towards the net that seemed to carom off a body in front and past Brodeur with 6:42 remaining in regulation.
The clutch goal by Girardi came moments after the Rangers were thwarted for the fifth time on the power play Tuesday. That New Jersey even handed New York that many power play opportunities was a story in of itself since the Devils entered play Tuesday the least penalized team in the entire NHL. The Devils, though, withstood their rare parade to the penalty box, even blanking the Rangers on a pair of third-period power plays. And after the Rangers failed to score on the second opportunity, Lundqvist was forced to make a sprawling left pad save on Jaromir Jagr after the former Rangers captain came streaking out of the penalty box.
After a scoreless first period which featured tight defensive play at both ends of the ice, the Rangers and Devils opened things up a bit more in the middle 20 minutes, and though the home team outshot the visitors 16-14, it was New Jersey that came away with a 2-1 lead after two periods of play.
Brodeur, who came into action Tuesday having posted back-to-back shutouts, was extremely sharp in the second period, denying a slew of Grade A scoring chances for the Blueshirts, who won puck battles on a consistent basis and crowded Brodeur's crease at every turn. McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan, and Brad Richards were among the Rangers to be thwarted on prime opportunities in that second period by Brodeur.
At the other end of the ice Carter opened the scoring 6:37 into the second, chipping a puck from in close that may have hit a Rangers skate and hopped past Lundqvist. However just 18 seconds later the Rangers responded as Marc Staal hammered a slap shot past Brodeur for his second goal of the season, evening the score 1-1 at 6:55. The goal was the first allowed by Brodeur in 192 minutes 26 seconds of game action.
Mats Zuccarello, in the midst of another quick-skating, feisty performance, earned the primary assist on Staal's goal, extending his point streak to a career-high four consecutive games. Kreider also assisted on the goal and now has points in five of his last eight contests.
Both Zuccarello and Kreider played physical games on Tuesday. Kreider was involved in a pair of non-penalized skirmishes, including one late in the first period with New Jersey's Steve Bernier; while Zuccarello warred with Brodeur on a pair of occasions in the second, with both taking swipes at one another. Zuccarello was finally assessed a coincidental roughing minor with Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky at 12:23 of the second period after Brodeur had punched him in the face with his blocker--yet was not penalized.
Carter struck again late in the second period to give the Devils an important 2-1 lead heading into the final period of play. The Devils forward beat a tired--at the end of his shift---Carl Hagelin down the ice to the left of Lundqvist and then backhanded a shot past the Rangers netminder with 46.1 seconds left to play, a backbeaking goal in a period the Rangers largely controlled.
The Rangers are off until Saturday when they skate against the Canadiens in Montreal. They will follow with a home contest on Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings.