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Devils to work on special teams before Game 4

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. -- Are the New Jersey Devils losing their "special" swagger against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals?
It would certainly appear that way.
Ilya Kovalchuk
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 13
SOG: 47 | +/-: -6
"I think specialty teams have been the different in this series," Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "They score on their power play and we don't, so we have to work on that [Sunday] at practice."
The Rangers opened a 2-1 series lead on the Devils on Saturday at Prudential Center following a 3-0 victory. New Jersey not only allowed at least one power-play to the Rangers for the third straight game in the loss, but finished 0-for-5 on the power play.
"We just have to create the lanes and get the puck in the net," Kovalchuk said. "We got some good chances and good looks, but we got a couple stick breaks at the wrong time and we hit the post. I had some chances … we just have to keep working."
Kovalchuk finished with a game-high six shots on goal in 24:57 of ice time. He was stationed at the point with the man advantage, as he usual is, but couldn't get that all-important first goal by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (36 saves).
"I think their goalie was the difference," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We generated some opportunities, some zone time, moved the puck around well [on the power play]. I thought we created some real good looks on it. Your goaltender is your best penalty killer, and I think that was the case [Saturday]."
The Devils finished with six shots on the power play, but couldn't solve Lundqvist, who notched his sixth career playoff shutout and his second of the series. The team ranks fifth in the playoffs with an 18.2 percent power-play efficiency.
"They were able to score on their power plays, and while we got some decent looks, they were blocking [shots] again or their goalie made the saves," Devils forward Dainius Zubrus said. "We still had a few lanes and chances that we could have taken advantage of on the power play."
The Devils are now 1-for-12 with the man advantage against the Rangers. Kovalchuk scored the only power-play goal in Game 2 -- a 3-2 victory. The Rangers blocked 19 shots on Saturday.
Perhaps more alarming is that once revered Devils penalty kill, which established a modern-day NHL record 89.6 percent success rate while shorthanded during the regular season. The Devils have now allowed four power-play goals on 10 chances against the Rangers and are 14th in the League with a 17.4 percent efficiency.
"The power-play let us down in that we didn't score any goals," Devils center Patrik Elias said. "We had a couple that weren't very good at all, and three or four where we moved the puck well. It got us some opportunities but we just didn't find the back of the net. When you have two teams playing tight defensively, 5-on-5, you've got to take advantage of those opportunities."
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur knows that in tight games, special teams will ultimately prove to be the difference.
"These are tightly played games," Brodeur said. "Both teams know what's at stake and it's like a chess match to a certain extent. There are little spurts from both teams to try and take advantage and grab momentum but it's hard to do for a full 20 minutes against a good team and they're the same way. But [on Saturday] they were able to score on the spurt they had early in the third."
A spurt that was ignited on a power-play goal by Dan Girardi 3:19 into the third.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale
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