The Devils got past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007 by outlasting Florida 3-2 in double overtime on Thursday night to win Game 7 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Now it's on to Philadelphia and a rematch with the team that wiped them out in five games in the opening round two years ago.
"Winning a playoff series goes a long way," said goaltender Martin Brodeur, who made 43 saves and is now 6-4 in 10 career Game 7 starts. "I think for people it's just a confidence and sometimes you need adversity. …The first round, I think when you haven't been in the playoffs, especially the year before and it's been struggling getting out of the first round, when you get through that it feels good for a day and then after that we've got to face the Flyers."
By the time the game ended at 12:17 a.m. ET, Thursday night had turned into Friday morning -- marking the 20th anniversary of Brodeur's first NHL playoff game, on April 27, 1992 against the Rangers.
The win means that the NHL's winningest regular-season goaltender will get to spend his 40th birthday doing what he does best -- the Devils will host Philadelphia in Game 4 a week from Sunday.
With 43 saves, including a handful of series-savers, Brodeur looked as sharp as ever.
"He was outstanding, especially in the first overtime and late in the third period," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "He was our best player tonight and he had to be or we don't win."
NEW YORK -- For the third time in four years, the Rangers will face the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Things have not gone well for the Rangers in those matchups, both of which occurred in the first round. In 2009, the seventh-seeded Rangers let a 3-1 series lead slip away and lost in seven games. Last year, the eighth-seeded Rangers lost in five games to the top-seeded Caps.
The shoe is on the other foot this time around -- the Rangers enter the series as the No. 1 team in the East with the seventh-seeded Capitals as the underdogs.
None of that matters to Henrik Lundqvist, the losing goalie in those previous two encounters.
"The past is the past," Lundqvist said after the Rangers won Game 7 by beating Ottawa 2-1 on Thursday. "I don't think about what happened last year or whatever. It's different teams. We're in a different place and they're in a different place. I'm going to approach it the same way I approached this one, not overthink it or try to do too much. Their top guys are really talented and can make some big plays out of nothing, so we have to be ready."
The Caps have won four of the previous six postseason meetings between the teams. But both of the Rangers' wins have come in this round -- New York upset Washington in 1986 and beat the Caps in five in 1994 on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.
The teams split four games during the regular season, with team earning a victory in the other's building.
"I don't know honestly how much is going to change game-wise," Lundqvist said. "It's the playoffs. It's more physical. It might be similar, maybe not, who knows, but for me personally it doesn't really change. I'm going to approach it the same way and I have to play my game the same way. So, yeah, it doesn't change for me."
Both teams are coming off seven-game series and won't have much rest entering the conference semifinals.
"They went seven games as well and have very confident players," Rangers forward Marian Gaborik said. "We have to get ready for those guys and play our game. It's going to be another tough series."
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After beating the Hawks in a grueling six-game series that saw the first five go into overtime, Phoenix got a welcome three-day break before the Nashville Predators come to the desert to open their Western Conference Semifinal series on Friday night.
Instead of practicing on Wednesday, the Coyotes held a team meeting instead. A few players took the ice while others received treatment or worked out. Coach Dave Tippett put his team through a practice on Thursday in preparation for the series opener on Friday night. He anticipates having everyone available for Game 1 except suspended forward Raffi Torres.
The four remaining teams in the West have a combined total of four appearances in the Stanley Cup Final -- three by St. Louis from 1968-70 and one by Los Angeles in 1993. Neither the Coyotes nor the Predators have gotten past the second round.
But both Phoenix and Nashville are here after eliminating Original Six teams -- Chicago and Detroit. The Predators have been off since beating the Wings in five games last Friday.
"It helps the grassroots. You get excitement," Tippett said of the turnover on top of the conference. "New blood in there, the more teams we can get to that element, I think that's great for the League."
Playing for my favorite team growing up, I've probably scored that goal a million times in my driveway. It feels good to actually do it in real life.