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Devils aim for Cup Final; Rangers try to remain alive

by Dan Rosen

(New Jersey leads best-of-seven series, 3-2)


Big Story:
The Devils can clinch their fifth trip to the Stanley Cup Final with a win on home ice in Game 6. They've won the last two games, including a 4-1 victory in Game 4 at Prudential Center and a 5-3 decision in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, to put themselves in this position. The Rangers have been down 3-2 in a series already in these playoffs. They rallied back to win Games 6 and 7 against Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Team Scope:

Rangers: Morale victories count for nothing in the playoffs, but the Rangers definitely got one in Game 5.

After giving up the first three goals in less than 10 minutes on a rebound, deflection and heavy wrister that normally would be stopped by Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers took control, exerted their will and forced their game plan right down the Devils throats. They scored three straight goals and had the game tied just 17 seconds into the third period.

It was the first time all series that the Rangers were able to play their brand of hockey against the Devils for more than just a couple of shifts in a row.

However, they still lost the game and head across the river with their season on the line.

"I don't have to motivate the team. I think our team is motivated," coach John Tortorella said. "I don't look at it as overcoming a 3-2 deficit. We need to win a hockey game. We're preparing to try to win one hockey game, and we'll see after that. So we prepare as we always do. There's no magic. There are no special speakers coming in. There is none of that."

Devils: They feel they stole one at the Garden on Wednesday, and they don't really care all that much.

It's all about winning in the playoffs; it doesn't matter how you do it. The Devils didn't pick up any style points in Game 5, but they did pick up a 5-3 victory thanks to early goals from Stephen Gionta, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac and a late one from Ryan Carter before Zach Parise scored into the empty net.

The Devils had only 17 shots on goal, including the empty-netter by Parise, and it was good enough despite the fact they know they were outplayed for long stretches in the game after they went up 2-0.

"(Game 5) was maybe a little wake-up call," goalie Martin Brodeur said. "They played better, but we didn't play as good as we wanted, so I'm sure they're going to feed off of some of the stuff they exposed in us. We're definitely going to need to be better for the rest of the series."

Who's Hot: Gionta, who didn't play for the Devils this season until the last regular season game, has appeared in all 17 playoff games and has three goals and three assists. He had a goal and an assist in Game 5. Zajac has goals in back-to-back games after going six games without one. Ilya Kovalchuk has three assists in the last two games, including two in Game 5. Parise has five points in the last two games.

Ruslan Fedotenko has four points in five games against the Devils after picking up just two points in the first 14 games of the playoffs. Ryan Callahan has three points in the last three games and was clearly the Rangers best forward in Game 5, when he had a goal and was credited with six hits. Brian Boyle won 13 of 14 faceoffs in Game 5.

Injury Report:
Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, who fractured his left wrist on March 23, said Thursday he is OK to play, but there is no word from Tortorella if he will be inserted into the lineup. … Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder is slowly working his way back from a blood clot issue, but it's unlikely coach Peter DeBoer will make any changes to the lineup.

Stat Pack: The Rangers have come back to win a series after trailing 3-2 twice in their history. They did it this season against Ottawa, and also in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils. … The Rangers are 0-7 in the playoffs when they give up three or more goals. The Devils are 11-2 when they score three or more goals. … The Rangers have lost six straight games in which they have given up the first goal.

Puck Drop:
"I don't think anybody thinks that it's won," Elias said. "We are in a great spot. We are in the position we'd like to be right now, but we know it's going to be a really tough game (Friday). Obviously, they've got to feel good about the game they played (Wednesday). It was one of their best games in the series, and we know we've got to be better if we want to move on. So, nobody thinks that it's over. I think we're pretty level-headed, all of us, and that's a good thing."

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