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Staal scores winner, Rangers push Devils to brink of elimination with 5-3 win @NHLdotcom

NEW YORK - Marc Staal scored his second straight game-winner. This time he did it into the right net.

The rookie defenceman pushed the New York Rangers within a win of the second round with a good old slap shot. The timing couldn't have better. Just three days after a puck clipped his skate and went in for New Jersey's winning goal in overtime of Game 3, Staal snapped a tie with 3:13 left to give the Rangers a 5-3 victory over the Devils and a 3-1 series lead Wednesday night.

"You couldn't get much lower than last game. To silence 20,000 people is not a good feeling," Staal said of New York's 4-3 home loss in Game 3. "This is unbelievable to get them back on their feet."

No tricks or funky screens were needed to beat Martin Brodeur and the Devils this time. Staal's official first NHL playoff goal was the result of simply putting the puck on net.

"I was thinking shoot right away," Staal said. "I tried to shoot it to the far post and it just went in."

The 21-year-old Staal bounced back quickly. He had help in the form of text messages from his NHL-playing brothers - Eric of the Carolina Hurricanes, and Jordan of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"They said don't worry about it," Staal recalled. "All the guys were understanding about what happened and what kind of goal it was."

Scott Gomez had two goals and, Martin Straka and Chris Drury also scored for the Rangers, who could end the series Friday with a win at New Jersey. New York took the first two games there before splitting two at home.

Straka also made the pass to Staal to set up the winning shot. The play resulted from a miscommunication between Devils forward Patrik Elias and defenceman Colin White.

"I don't know what happened," Elias said. "I had time, I had the puck on my stick. It's the second time that's happened in the series. A bad mistake at a bad time."

Gomez sealed it with an empty-netter with 12.2 seconds left.

Brodeur and the Devils kept Rangers agitator Sean Avery without a goal for the first time in the series, one game after his antics led the NHL to amend its unsportsmanlike conduct rule.

Avery faced Brodeur during a 5-on-3 advantage in the Devils' win, waving his arms and stick in the goalie's face - a move deemed illegal the following day.

Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves and the Rangers beat the Devils for the 10th time in 12 meetings this season.

There have been 18 teams to win series after trailing 3-1. New Jersey did it to Philadelphia in the 2000 Eastern Conference finals.

"We have to play better. It's do or die for us," Brodeur said. "Today was an important game and we came out flat, everybody.

"It's been done before. It will be really hard."

Elias scored twice and Mike Mottau got New Jersey even in the third period. Brodeur finished with 34 saves.

The Devils, who erased three one-goal deficits, have been outscored in the third period 8-2 in the series and 15-3 in 12 meetings this season.

The Devils had gone 16 straight games without scoring more than two regulation goals against Lundqvist, but have done it two straight contests including their 4-3 victory in Game 3.

Mottau netted the tying goal 4:37 into the third, wristing a shot from the right circle past Lundqvist, who was desperately trying to get a stick from a teammate after losing his.

The frenzied home crowd that enthusiastically waved white towels after each Rangers goal groaned with extra frustration because the goal was scored moments after Avery was dumped in front. Avery was then held down by defenceman Bryce Salvador.

New York had taken its third one-goal lead in the second period when Drury deflected in a point shot from Fedor Tyutin.

The Rangers had their second straight strong start at home, but unlike their Game 3 loss they turned this one into a 1-0 lead.

Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi deftly kept the puck in at the left point during a power play and moved it Drury. He passed back to Girardi, who slid the puck to Gomez for a redirect at 12:37.

It was the fifth point of the series but first goal for Gomez, who had 21 goals and 44 assists in 97 playoff games with the Devils before signing with the Rangers last summer.

"Nothing rattles that guy," Gomez said of Brodeur, his longtime teammate. "They have alligator blood in them. This series is a long way from over."

The Devils tied it 31 seconds into the second period on Elias' second of the series.

New York needed a little more than two minutes to go back in front. Straka took a pass from Brandon Dubinsky and finished a 2-on-1 to make it 2-1 at 2:53.

Still, the Rangers couldn't extend the lead - instead putting the Devils on their second power play with a too many men penalty. Elias scored 19 seconds later and tied the game 2-2.

The physical and chippy play that became more prevalent in Game 3 picked up. Travis Zajac clipped Rangers defenceman Michal Rozsival, drawing a four-minute penalty that New Jersey killed easily.

Brodeur was whistled for diving after getting bumped by Fredrik Sjostrom, then flopped again when Jaromir Jagr hit him with his thigh and knocked off the goalie's mask.

That led to a scrum which resulted in roughing penalties for Jagr and Johnny Oduya, who came to Brodeur's defence.

"I guess we have find a way to do the same thing to their goalie," Devils forward Jay Pandolfo said. "They are getting away with it, we should be able to get away with it, too."

Notes: Montreal was the last team to rally to win after trailing 3-1, eliminating Boston in the 2004 first round.

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