The standings may show the New Jersey Devils to be the worst team in the league, but tonight, when the New York Rangers came to town, they upped their game considerably and battled hard for the entire night. The Rangers would eventually overcome them, with a 3-1 win, but it was a hard-fought sixty minutes by both teams. I stated earlier this afternoon that the Rangers could not take them lightly, and as close as the score was, I do not think that was the case. The Rangers did not play very well, but they were not terrible. The Devils, meanwhile, played very well but when you are in the midst of a season like this, the breaks do not go your way. This would be evident in the ensuing three periods.
- First period: The Devils got off to a great start by keeping the puck in the Rangers end and cracking the score sheet just over six minutes in. With Henrik Lundqvist down and a scramble in the crease, Travis Zajac shot one past Marc Staal who almost got his skate on it. This would cause some worry in the Rangers, as they were getting badly outplayed, but then Brian Boyle (14) would counter with the tying goal less than a minute later. It started in their own zone with Brandon Prust, who carried the puck out and gave it to Ruslan Fedotenko, who fed Boyle for a quick shot, that hit off the bottom of Martin Brodeur’s glove. Needless to say, it was an extraordinarily soft goal that he should have had, but the Rangers will take it. They would only muster up 5 shots in the period, but Brodeur looked shaky, and they may have scored more goals had they not been outplayed so severely. The Devils would have 16 shots and control play for the majority of the period. The Rangers were lucky to get out tied.
- Second period: As unstable as Brodeur was in the first period was as good as he looked in the second. The Rangers still did not generate an adequate number of shots, but Brodeur made several nice saves, including one on Sean Avery later in the period. The tempo of play also increased, as the game became more hard-hitting and even prompted a fight between Boyle and Dainus Zubrus, who is nothing but a gutless thug. The Rangers would end up giving up 20 more shots in the middle frame, bringing the Devils’ game total to 36, but that would not stop the Rangers from taking the lead 2-1, on a goal by Michal Rozsival (3). Stepan would get the puck to Dubinsky behind the night, who fed Rozsival at the right circle, and his shot appeared to be going wide, before it took a dramatic deflection off Andy Greene and past Brodeur short-side. Lundqvist was keeping the team in the game.
- Third period: The two teams kept playing hard, and the Rangers would get a glorious scoring chance early, with a four-minute powerplay. However, the Devils would kill it off easily and the score would remain the same. The Rangers were able to keep pressure off Lundqvist, who had a heavy workload through two periods. He would end the game with 43 saves in total, a season high. The game would wind down and Jason Arnott was just inches away from tying the it late, when he was a foot away from the crease with the puck on his stick and a wide open net, but he shot it over the top of the net and into the crowd. Brandon Dubinsky would ice the game with an empty net goal, sealing a 3-1 victory against the Devils.
The Rangers did not play a very good game tonight—it was not terrible, but I don’t think they were prepared for a Devils team who obviously had tonight’s rivalry matchup circled on their calendar. In other words, they were extremely lucky to come away with a win tonight, and thanks to a blooper first goal, a lucky bounce on the second, and some amazing goaltending, they were able to keep the Devils reeling, and winless with Jacques Lemaire as coach.
Chris Drury also had a sub-par game tonight. He took a very bad offensive zone penalty with under four minutes remaining in regulation, and luckily the team was able to kill it off. He is still looking for his first goal since his return from a broken hand.
Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle continue to be this team’s unsung heroes. They work hard every night and have developed unbelievable chemistry with their other line mate, Ruslan Fedotenko. They have become a true joy to watch on this team, and they deserve some powerplay time, while Gaborik and Co. continue to struggle just getting shots on goal.
And so the Rangers close out 2010 with a victory over their rivals. It really was not as much fun tonight, beating up on the worst team in the league, but a win is a win, and the Rangers did exactly what they needed to do.