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Devils even Eastern Conference Finals with 3-2 win

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- Just when everything was going so well for Martin Brodeur on Wednesday night, a bad bounce of epic proportions went against the future Hall of Famer.

With the New Jersey Devils up a goal in the second period, Brodeur moved out to challenge a shot from Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. The puck caromed off the Devils' Bryce Salvador, then the backboards, then off the leg and arm of Brodeur and into the net to tie the game 1-1.

"You have to shake it off," Brodeur said, "but I definitely rolled my eyes."

Brodeur didn't let scoring on himself get to him. He made 23 saves as the Devils responded from a Game 1 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals and rallied for a 3-2 victory in Game 2 against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The 40-year-old goaltender has now allowed two goals or fewer in four straight starts and in eight of 11 starts since he was pulled in Game 3 of the conference quarterfinals against the Florida Panthers. Brodeur responded to a perfect performance from goaltending counterpart Henrik Lundqvist in Game 1 by not allowing a goal at even strength on Wednesday to help even the best-of-seven series at 1-1.

"Marty has been unbelievable all season and some of the saves he's made in the playoffs, especially in that Florida series, is the reason we're here today," said Devils forward David Clarkson, whose goal early in the third period broke a 2-2 tie. It was his third goal -- all winners -- in the postseason.

"He was great," said Devils sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, whose sixth goal of the playoffs opened the scoring in the first period. "He made some key saves. He's the best goalie of all time. He's the best for a reason."

Kovalchuk got the Devils on the board at 13:39 of the first period with the Rangers' Brian Boyle in the penalty box for slashing. Captain Zach Parise made a nice play along the wall to get the puck to defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who fed the puck to the left circle to Kovalchuk. From there, Kovalchuk fired a laser that beat Lundqvist high to the glove side.

Earlier in the period, Brodeur came up with a remarkable save to deny Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh on an odd-man rush. McDonagh had a gaping net for his wraparound try, but Brodeur showed athletic ability that defies his age by diving across the goal line to get a piece of the shot.

About three minutes before Kovalchuk scored, Brodeur turned aside a shot from defenseman Michael Del Zotto that changed speeds on the way to the net, then stacked the pads to stifle Marian Gaborik's rebound try.

While coach John Tortorella and the Rangers treat the word "tired" as one that should be censored on network television, Brodeur was happy to admit he felt a bit exhausted after Game 2.

"I felt pretty good … a little tired now," Brodeur said. "I kind of overworked myself sometimes for no reason. The guys played well in front of me. I saw most of the pucks. But the Rangers came out pretty strong. They had a lot of shots -- a lot of crashing the net and being around without touching me they were just around me a lot.

"Mentally, it's a tough game to play because you really have to look at the puck all game long. But I feel pretty good whenever I win."

As well as Brodeur played, a pair of penalties led to two Rangers goals that put the Devils in a hole during the second period.

Staal's wild goal at 2:23 was the result of an offensive-zone interference penalty to forward Alexei Ponikarovsky. Rookie Chris Kreider then put the Rangers ahead 2-1 with forward Travis Zajac in the penalty box for an offensive-zone interference infraction of his own.

Brodeur never saw that second goal, as defenseman Anton Stralman ripped a shot that hit the big-bodied Kreider, who was parked in front of the net. Kreider's fourth goal of the postseason tied a record held by Montreal's Eddie Mazur for most playoff goals from a player who had never played in a regular-season game.

It was the second straight game in which the Devils trailed by a goal, but to Parise, the attitude of the team was different.

"I thought tonight was a different reaction when we went down by a goal than it was in the first game," Parise said. "We didn't change the way we played, and I think that was a big difference. We were comfortable with how we were playing. We spent a lot of time in their zone. You know, all I think they got was really on the power play."

Through two games, the Rangers have five goals -- three on the power play, one at 5-on-5, and one into an empty net. The Devils didn't have a 5-on-5 goal through the first 98:09 of the series, but forward Ryan Carter put an end to that drought late in the second period.

A giveaway by Gaborik, who found himself glued to the bench afterward and played only 3:07 in the third period, led to more Devils pressure from their fourth line. Carter redirected a long shot from defenseman Bryce Salvador that got past Lundqvist to send the game into the second intermission tied at 2-2.

For Devils coach Peter DeBoer, that goal changed the complexion of the game.

"Your fourth line gets out there and crashes and bangs and creates some momentum and scores a big goal for us," DeBoer said. "It's been the story of the playoffs -- we've had somebody different every night."

Clarkson's goal at 2:31 of the third period was scored in a similar fashion to Carter's goal. The Devils again hemmed the Rangers in their own end, and this time it was rookie Adam Henrique taking a long shot that Clarkson deflected about thigh-high past Lundqvist for the deciding goal.

Salvador picked up his second assist of the game and sixth of the playoffs on that goal, and Brodeur took it from there. He made eight saves in the third period to help the Devils steal home-ice advantage with Game 3 scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Prudential Center in Newark (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

"I think we wanted to get down low and cycle pucks and win battles and the defense shooting pucks and us getting sticks on it and we did that tonight," Clarkson said. "Cart had a great tip there. Salvador two assists, but Marty made some of those saves in the first that kept us in it and it was a big game for us, but we have to be ready going home now."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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