EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Playing the New York Rangers is usually enough motivation for New Jersey Devils. Seeing Sean Avery manhandle goalie Martin Brodeur gave the Devils added incentive.
Zach Parise scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period, Brodeur made 35 saves, and the Devils beat the Rangers 2-1 on Tuesday night. Avery was in Brodeur's face all night and things came to a head late in the second period.
With 1:16 left, Avery crashed into Brodeur, knocking off the goalie's helmet. Brodeur responded with a shove, prompting Avery to deck the goalie. That triggered a huge pileup as players dove into the crease.
Avery got two minor penalties for goalie interference and roughing. Brian Rafalski, the first Devil to Brodeur's defence, was whistled for roughing. Brodeur was not penalized.
"Guys crash the net all the time," Brodeur said. "It's part of the normal battle. I get into it. I'm a big guy and I've played a long time. I'm not going to get rattled too much."
Avery felt Brodeur overreacted.
"It's pretty obvious," Avery said. "I don't complain about that stuff. I know what I bring and I'm never going to get the benefit of the doubt. He's a good goalie. You've got to get in front of him. That's how you score goals."
Their confrontation set the stage for a tense third period in which the Rangers had 12-5 edge in shots but the Devils came away the only goal and the win.
"There was no excuse for that," Parise said of Avery's confrontation with Brodeur. "It gave us motivation and an added lift."
Parise broke the 1-1 tie at 12:06, seconds after the Rangers almost took the lead. Petr Prucha and Michael Nylander could not bury golden opportunities in a scrum outside the Devils' crease.
New Jersey came right down to score. Parise, set up by Scott Gomez, unloaded a hard shot that Henrik Lundqvist deflected. Parise caught up to his own rebound and set a shot toward the net that Rangers defenceman Karel Rachunek put into his own net.
"I just wanted make something happen," Parise said. "Lundqvist made a nice stop and I just tried to put it back on net. It was a lucky play."
Rafalski also scored and Gomez assisted on both goals as the Devils won their second straight and 12th in the last 17 games.
Prucha scored for the Rangers.
Rafalski scored the only goal of the first period at 8:16. Joining the attack between the hash marks, the defenceman took a pass from Gomez and ripped a shot past Lundqvist.
The Devils controlled the tempo in the opening period, outshooting the Rangers 12-8.
The Rangers were the more aggressive team in the second with a 16-9 shot advantage and it paid off as Prucha got the tying goal with three minutes remaining. Prucha tipped home Aaron Ward's point shot while Avery distracted Brodeur by brushing the goalie, a prelude to what erupted at the end of the period.
Notes: Devils captain and leading point-scorer Patrik Elias missed the game with the flu. . . . Both teams played without their top goal-scorer. The Rangers' Brendan Shanahan (28 goals) missed a second game with a concussion while the Devils' Brian Gionta (24) sat out a third straight game with a groin injury. . . . New Jersey shuffled players from their Lowell (AHL) farm team, calling up RW Barry Tallackson while sending down D Mark Fraser. . . . Barring a meeting in the playoffs, the game was the last between the Rangers and the Devils at Continental Airlines Arena. The Devils are 45-25-5 in the 75 regular-season meetings here. The Devils will move to Newark, N.J., next season. . . . The game started a home-and-home series with the teams meeting again Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. . . . The crowd of 18,537 was the Devils' second-highest this season, trailing only the 18,589 on Feb. 3 against Buffalo. They have not had a sellout in 32 home games.