The New Jersey Devils
took out all their frustrations against Henrik Lundqvist
and the New York Rangers
in one night.
Lundqvist had all but owned the Devils since his arrival in the NHL in 2005, helping New York turn around a rivalry that had become very one-sided. He had never allowed more than three regulation goals to New Jersey and not surrendered more than two since the first time he faced them in October 2005.
But the Devils finally solved him on Friday night, enjoying their biggest offensive night against the Rangers since March 25, 1987, in an 8-5 victory at the Prudential Center — their first regulation win over their big-city rivals in 12 tries.
"It's been a while," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner
said of his team's recent lack of success against their cross-river rivals, who also eliminated them in the first round of the playoffs last spring. "I'd be lying if I said we didn't know about it. We hear about it all the time."
Not that getting the win was easy. The Devils appeared to be coasting when Dainius Zubrus
scored at 11:33 of the second period to make it 5-1. But the Rangers needed less than 20 minutes to pull even; Ryan Callahan
's shot under Scott Clemmensen
's arm at 11:18 of the third period tied the game at 5-5.
"For whatever reason, we seemed to take our foot off the gas a little bit," Langenbrunner said.
However, the tie didn't last long. Patrik Elias
put the Devils back in front just 11 seconds after Callahan's goal, beating Lundqvist after a defensive breakdown. Brian Gionta
scored on a breakaway backhander at 13:04, and Jamie Langenbrunner
capped the offensive outburst at 15:07, giving the Devils their fourth consecutive victory and ninth in 10 games.
"It was a great reaction from the whole team, not just from our line. We put together a great seven or eight minutes," Elias said of the surge that produced three goals in a span of 3:38.
It was the kind of game that makes even the winning coach tear his hair out.
''If I wasn't bald before, I'm really bald now,'' Devils coach Brent Sutter
said. ''We played well. We did a lot of good things here.''
A crestfallen Lundqvist was left trying to figure out what happened after losing his third consecutive decision — a span in which he's allowed 17 goals.
"Eight goals for a goalie is not a lot of fun," he said. "We had some problems in our own zone obviously, and they found a lot of openings tonight. We made it pretty easy for them. But the bottom line is that I have to be better.
"They're a good team, but we made them look better than they really are."
Clemmensen, who has taken over the starting job while Martin Brodeur
recovers from surgery on his left bicep, became the first New Jersey goaltender other than Brodeur to beat the Rangers since Chris Terreri
did it on April 7, 1993.
New York had been 9-0-2 in the 11 previous meetings and had outscored New Jersey 9-3 in two wins this season. Lundqvist came into the game with a 14-2-4 lifetime mark against the Devils, including both wins this season, with a 1.46 goals-against average and two shutouts.
But his career-long magic touch against the Devils disappeared quickly. Jay Pandolfo
scored on a shorthanded breakaway 4:04 into the game, and after Markus Naslund
tied it at 15:54, Travis Zajac
scored 65 seconds later during a power play to put New Jersey back in front.
"It was great for us to get to him early," said forward Zach Parise
, who had four assists. "We got the feeling that we can score on him. After a while when you're scoring one or two goals against him, it gets a little frustrating. So it was nice to have that little explosion."
The Devils toyed with the Rangers in the first half of the second period, getting a second goal from Zajac and Oduya's shorthanded tally before Zubrus made it 5-1. It was the 10th shorthanded goal allowed this season by New York, which also went 0-for-9 on the power play.
At that point, Rangers coach Tom Renney called his timeout.
"The mood was desperation, but it was also real clear that we wanted to get ourselves back in this hockey game," Renney said.
Whatever he said had the desired effect. Nikolai Zherdev
scored at 15:46 and assisted on ex-Devil Scott Gomez
' goal at 18:22. Paul Mara
beat Clemmensen 1:22 into the third period before Callahan got the Rangers even — briefly.
"The goal that got them to 6-5 was a big goal," Rangers captain Chris Drury
said. "We needed to keep it 5-5 for a few shifts to maintain momentum, but we just couldn’t do it."
Asked if his team's worst defensive performance of the season was embarrassing, Renney replied: "Humility is a good thing if you want to move forward at times. We took one in the seat of the pants tonight. To a man, we all have to look at what we can do to be the difference, as opposed to the problem."
Both teams play again Saturday — the Rangers at home against Carolina and the Devils at "the Rock" against Buffalo. Renney, for one, is glad to get right back on the ice.
"I'd rather play," he said. "We've had to do this a couple of times — move onto the next contest because we weren't very good. Tonight is one of those examples; we scored five goals, and that should win you a hockey game.
"What we have to do is recognize that it's going to take all hands on deck tomorrow night to beat Carolina."
Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report.