New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist backstopped another superb third-period effort put forth by his team en route to a 3-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday at Prudential Center.
As was the case in Game 1 of this best-of-seven series, Lundqvist calmly held fort while his teammates regained their skating legs over the final 20 minutes. On Saturday, the Vezina- and Hart Trophy finalist made 36 saves -- including 26 over the opening 40 minutes -- before Dan Girardi, Chris Kreider and Ryan Callahan connected in the third to seal the deal.
Rangers coach John Tortorella said his team certainly feeds off the positive energy Lundqvist has provided this postseason.
"It's a bit of our personality," Tortorella said. "I think Henrik, I've always said that about him, that's a bit of who we are. I think Henrik displays that, how he does compete. He's a great competitor as far as his preparation and as far as what he does for this hockey club."
Lundqvist needed to make just 17 saves over two periods in Game 1 on Monday on the way to a 21-save, 3-0 victory.
"Their goalie was the difference," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said.
Lundqvist earned his sixth career playoff shutout against his Hudson River rival. At the other end, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur turned aside 19 shots, but suffered his 87th career playoff loss.
"I think we had moments during the year where we got into some tough minutes, if you can call it that, but we didn't panic, we kept our composure, kept playing the same way, and as a goalie, you know sooner or later it's going to turn," Lundqvist said. "We're going to get a chance, going to get a break. And that's the feeling I had. In the third we came out big, made some really big plays and scored some really good goals."
Said Brodeur: "He's played well and got a little lucky off the post, but we need to keep doing what we're doing. We're playing a team that is playing well and they blocked shots and they're paying the price to win hockey games."
The win marks the third time in this series that the team winning the third period has won the game.
The Rangers outscored the Devils, 3-0, in the third period of Games 1 and 3. The Devils scored the only goal of the third in a 3-2 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday.
The Rangers will look to extend their 2-1 series lead in Game 4, which is scheduled for Monday at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). In addition to winning another third-period battle, the Rangers successfully killed all five New Jersey power-play attempts for the game. The Rangers, meanwhile, went 1-for-2 with the man advantage.
Devils captain Zach Parise was unavailable for comment following the loss.
Kreider's deflection past Brodeur at 5:16 of the third gave the visitors some breathing room at 2-0. Ryan McDonagh's blast from the left point deflected off Kreider, who was cruising through the slot. The goal was the Rangers' first non-empty-net, 5-on-5 goal of the series since the third period of Game 1.
Kreider's fifth goal of the postseason set a new record for most playoff goals from a player who had never played in a regular-season game. Montreal's Eddie Mazur had four.
Lundqvist would come up big 8:44 into the third when he denied Ilya Kovalchuk's 40-foot slap shot on the power-play. Kovalchuk generated a game-high six shots in the game.
"[Kovalchuk's] a good player," Lundqvist said. "Every time you face players like that, you just try to be patient and wait for him to make the first move. And he had a couple of big chances but I was a little lucky. A couple times where I made the first move I still ended up making the save. That's not going to happen all the time."
The Devils again just missed at snapping the shutout bid with 4:09 left in regulation, when Peter Harrold rang a shot off the crossbar from between the circles. Callahan's empty-net goal at 17:47 assured the Rangers of a 2-1 series lead.
The Rangers opened a 1-0 lead 3:19 into the third on a power-play goal by Girardi. Brad Richards won an offensive-zone draw against Patrik Elias back to Girardi, who skated into the puck in the right circle before ripping a low liner to Brodeur's blocker side from the edge of the circle.
"It's tough to give a goal right from faceoff," Elias said. "It seems like whoever gets that first goal, it's tough to get back. We made a push, and they scored right away again. We just have to stay focused until the end; we have to find a way to put pucks in."
The teams traded good scoring chances in the second. Lundqvist was called upon early and often, however. He denied a Kovalchuk breakaway attempt just 46 seconds into the period when he dove to his left. Over a minute later, he'd stop a slap shot from the point by Dainius Zubrus point and the ensuing rebound off the stick of Adam Henrique in the slot.
Brodeur turned back the clock when he made an extraordinary glove save on Callahan while reaching to his right at the left post at the 9:03 mark. Derek Stepan took the initial shot from the right point that deflected to an open Callahan at the post. The denial sent the hometown faithful into a frenzy.
But, make no mistake, Lundqvist and Rangers' specialty teams were the reasons New York remained regained a one-game lead in the series. The Rangers denied the Devils on two power-play chances in the third while holding a 2-0 advantage.
"We're flirting there taking five penalties," Tortorella said. "But tonight it came up big for us, especially in the third period when we had the lead."
Devils forward Travis Zajac knows the Devils must improve on the power-play -- the team is now 1-for 12 with the man advantage in the series.
"We've been pretty good in the playoffs of getting a goal when we needed one and [Saturday] we moved the puck well and did some good things, had some good looks but we we just didn't get one by," Zajac said.
The Devils were given the first power-play of the game when Stepan was sent to the box for hooking down Ryan Carter at 5:11, but the Devils could only manage one shot on the advantage.
Both goalies were called upon to make some key saves, particularly Lundqvist, who did the splits to deny a blast from the left point by defenseman Bryce Salvador at 10:56. The Rangers were given a power-play at 15:23 when Kovalchuk was sent to the box for a high-stick on McDonagh, but the Devils yielded no shots on the two-minute infraction.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale