NEWARK, N.J. - Martin Brodeur made 27 saves and survived a third-period punch to the chin by old buddy Mike Rupp as the New Jersey Devils defeated the New York Rangers, 4-1, Monday night in Game 4 to even the Eastern Conference Finals, 2-2.
Zach Parise had two goals and an assist and Bryce Salvador and Travis Zajac beat Henrik Lundqvist less than four minutes apart in the first period in a series where the intensity and the emotions are picking up.
Brodeur even notched an assist in the third, on Parise's empty netter, capping a game in which the Devils maintained their composure and bounced back from a 3-0 shutout in Game 3, while the Rangers took several uncharacteristic penalties and seemed rattled from the start.
Game 5 is Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
This game was one where the chippiness increased with each period. New York's Marc Staal whacked Patrik Elias in the back of the knee with his stick in the second. Ryan Callahan, the Rangers captain, and New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk tussled. And finally, Rupp, a former Devil who scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for New Jersey in 2003, jabbed Brodeur in his crease in the third after a stoppage in play.
That almost set off a free-for-all among the players on the ice, especially after Brodeur reacted like he had been hit by a roundhouse right.
The best action, though, was along the benches where Devils coach Peter DeBoer screamed at Rangers coach John Tortorella in what he must have perceived was an intentional attack on his goaltender in a game in which the Rangers were once again dominated. The two coaches also sniped at each other on Sunday, complaining about pick plays and embellishing penalties. Indeed, these are the makings of another classic series in this rivalry.
The Rupp punch came about four minutes after Parise scored on a power play to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead and for all practical purposes, ended the game.
Ruslan Fedotenko ruined Brodeur's bid for his 25th career playoff shutout with just over five minutes to play.
The Rangers pulled Lundqvist, who had shut out the Devils in Games 1 and 3, with less than three minutes to play, and Brodeur made two outstanding saves to keep it a two-goal game.
Parise finally iced the game with his second of the game and sixth of the playoffs. It was a clearing pass that found its way into the net. Brodeur notched the assist on the play for his fourth of the playoffs.
This game ??? which did not include New York's Brendan Prust, who was suspended for elbowing Anton Volchenkov in Game 3 ??? was decided early because the Devils finally found ways to beat Lundqvist.
The Devils dominated much of the play in Game 3, and the first period of Game 4 was even worse for the Rangers. They looked slow, were outhustled on nearly every shift, and they didn't get a shot on goal until roughly halfway through the period.
By then, New Jersey already had a 1-0 lead, on a goal by Salvador, and was cruising.
Salvador's see-eye shot through a half-dozen players from the left point sneaked by the Rangers' netminder for New Jersey's first goal since the third period of Game 2. New Jersey's Jacob Josefson, playing for the first time since breaking his left wrist on April 3, failed to deflect the shot on the way in, and New York's Anton Stralman seemed to screen Lundqvist, who seemingly never saw the wrist shot.
Zajac's goal gave the Devils a 2-0 lead at 11:59. It was New Jersey's first two-goal lead in the series and Parise had a big hand in it.
New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus sent the puck along the boards and New York's Michael Del Zotto made two mistakes. He didn't flag down the puck and then he allowed Parise to skate past him, setting up a 2-on-1. Parise lifted a pass over the stick of a prone Dan Girardi, and Zajac one-timed the pass into the upper portion of the net before Lundqvist could react.
Parise extended the lead to 3-0 early in the third period, just four seconds after Derek Stepan was sent off for high sticking. Kovalchuk took a shot from the point that Lundqvist could not control and Parise whacked the rebound into the net.
NOTES: Veteran Petr Sykora, who had played in every game for the Devils this season and won the 2000 Stanley Cup with New Jersey, sat, as Josefson returned to the lineup. ... With Prust forced to miss the game, the Rangers dressed seven defenceman, including Stu Bickel who returned to the lineup after sitting for Game 3. ... Rangers rookie forward Chris Kreider had his three-game goal scoring streak snapped. ... The Devils' win was played on the 18-year anniversary of New Jersey's 3-1 victory over the Rangers in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. That was also a Game 4, and that also tied that series, 2-2. New York went on to win that series in seven games.