NEWARK , N.J. -- After two lackluster performances on the road that resulted in a pair of losses, the New Jersey Devils returned home and held a closed-door, soul-searching team meeting to openly discuss the problems that have been plaguing the team since mid-January.
Whatever was said among the players and coaches seemed to have been the wake-up call everyone needed.
In their first game since the airing of grievances, the Devils used a five-goal barrage over the first two periods to chase Henrik Lundqvist and send the New York Rangers to their fourth straight loss, 6-3 at the Prudential Center on Wednesday night.
Six players scored for the Devils, who came ready to play from the opening faceoff against their cross-river rivals.
"I think we played with more intensity. We showed that we really wanted to win tonight, more than I've seen lately," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We're headed in the right direction."
Entering Wednesday's game, the Devils were 6-12-2 since their 1-0 shootout win against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 12. They hit rock bottom Sunday in Edmonton in a 2-0 loss to the Oilers that followed a 5-3 loss to the Flames in Calgary two days earlier.
But the Devils held it together Wednesday, when they relinquished three one-goal leads during the first two periods before putting some space between themselves and the Rangers. It wasn't perfect, but everyone agreed it was a performance that was desperately needed.
"I think there's still a lot of things to work to make sure we're getting ourselves ready down the stretch and play well," said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who stopped 16 of 19 shots to earn the victory. "I think effort, character-wise, I think in a big rivalry to come out and play an emotional game and come out on top, it feels good."
And how much of that effort can be attributed to Tuesday's team meeting?
"You don't know if it helps, but I think the intensity and the caring of each other needs to be a little higher," Brodeur said about the team before Wednesday's win. "I think today you could see everybody stuck together and pulled through it and got a big win.
"Hopefully we'll look back and think it's important, not just for standings-wise, but for confidence going down the stretch."
Rob Niedermayer got things off on the right foot for Devils at 4:16 of the first period when he beat Lundqvist over his catching glove to make it 1-0. Vinny Prospal responded for the Rangers 57 seconds later, but the Devils hung tough until Bryce Salvador scored with 1:43 left in the opening period on a shot that deflected into the net off Rangers center Olli Jokinen.
The trading of goals would continue in the second period. Erik Christensen tied the score off a great individual effort at 5:01, but Zach Parise's 31st goal of the season at 8:38 put the Devils ahead 3-2. Brandon Prust got his first as a Ranger 37 seconds later, but goals from Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Rolston to close the second period gave the Devils a two-goal lead and sent Lundqvist to the bench in favor of Alex Auld.
Lundqvist made just 12 saves on 17 shots, but it was hard to fault him on any of the goals.
"I don't know how many of them were tips, probably two or three," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "It's not his fault. We had breakdowns in our own zone and it ended up costing us. It wasn't his fault at all."
"We played in spurts," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of his team's up-and-down effort. "As we've done through most of the year, we've been inconsistent. We've been really good at times, inconsistent at other times, and it was the same thing tonight."
The Rangers wasted a chance to pick up ground on the idle Boston Bruins, who have a three-point lead on New York for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins also have two games in hand.
The win moved the Devils to within three points of the Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins, who come to New Jersey on Friday.
"If we play like we did tonight, we'll have our chance," Parise said of facing the Pens. "We played a good game. All the lines were playing well, we were playing a lot smarter. We were playing harder. We were tough to play against tonight."
One game might not be able to cure the Devils' ills, but it's clear the message got across in that meeting.
"The way we were playing was not good enough," Lemaire said. "Now they know and it's good they put pressure on themselves to play better, play as a team."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter at: @DLozoNHL
|Rob Niedermayer (8) ASST: Brian Rolston (14), Mike Mottau (10)|
1 - 0 NJD
|Vinny Prospal (15) ASST: Marian Gaborik (35), Olli Jokinen (31)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Bryce Salvador (4) ASST: Andy Greene (22), Jamie Langenbrunner (40)|
2 - 1 NJD
|Erik Christensen (6) ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (19), Dan Girardi (11)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Zach Parise (31) ASST: Dainius Zubrus (10), Travis Zajac (36)|
3 - 2 NJD
|Brandon Prust (2) ASST: Jody Shelley (4)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Jamie Langenbrunner (16) ASST: Mike Mottau (11), Andy Greene (23)|
4 - 3 NJD
|Brian Rolston (18) ASST: Rob Niedermayer (12), David Clarkson (10)|
5 - 3 NJD
|Travis Zajac (21) ASST: Dainius Zubrus (11), Zach Parise (36)|
6 - 3 NJD
|Dainius Zubrus Roughing against Ryan Callahan|
|Jody Shelley Fighting (maj) against Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond|
|Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond Fighting (maj) against Jody Shelley|
|Zach Parise Interference against Chris Drury|
|Wade Redden Hooking against Zach Parise|
|Travis Zajac Tripping against Chris Drury|
|Jody Shelley Interference against Bryce Salvador|
|Jody Shelley Misconduct (10 min)|