A second straight stellar performance from one of their top players lifted the New Jersey Devils to their 13th straight victory Monday. Now the Devils look to keep rolling and put a stranglehold on their first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers.
The teams meet at Madison Square Garden as the series shifts to New York for Game 3.
John Madden, New Jersey's top defensive forward, tied an NHL playoff record with two short-handed goals as part of his first postseason hat trick to lift the Devils to a 4-1 victory in Game 2 on Monday.
Madden's outstanding performance followed a two-goal, four-assist effort from Patrik Elias in the opener Saturday, a 6-1 New Jersey rout.
"This won't happen again for a long time, it would be nice if it did," Madden said of his hat trick. "In reality, I have to get back to checking and getting the puck deep and winning faceoffs and killing penalties."
Madden and his teammates, though, have done more than enough of those things to make the Rangers look completely overwhelmed in the series. New York went 0-for-7 on the power play Monday and is 1-for-13 in the first two games, defeats that pushed its slide to seven straight losses.
Now, the Rangers also have injury problems working against them as well.
Star forward Jaromir Jagr didn't play in Game 2 due to a shoulder injury he suffered in the final moments of Saturday's contest, and veteran defenseman Darius Kasparaitis also was sidelined after aggravating a groin injury during the pregame skate.
Top goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
is healthy, but coach Tom Renney appears to have lost confidence in him, going with veteran Kevin Weekes in Game 2 instead. Weekes was sharp at times in making 21 saves.
"This was a game to build on," Renney said. "The first one was, too, but we were in a hole. Now were at the ground level and we need to keep building. I think that we played hard and showed character that's been symbolic of our team most of the year, at least."
For most of the season, though, Renney's club benefited from the presence of Jagr, who had 54 goals and 123 points, as well as the steady presence of Kasparaitis and the solid play of Lundqvist. Whether any of the three players will return for Game 3 is uncertain.
"He's one of the best players in the world," center Steve Rucchin said of Jagr. "I don't care what team it is in the league, you lose a guy like that it's going to be difficult."
While the Rangers face questions in net, no team in the NHL is more confident in its goalie. Martin Brodeur made 25 saves Monday in his 135th consecutive playoff start to improve to 86-60 with a 1.86 goals-against average in his postseason career.
The Devils, yet to beat the Rangers in three previous postseason meetings, are 9-0 in playoff series when leading two games to none.
New York is 1-15 in best-of-7 series when trailing 2-0, but did rally to beat Montreal in six games the last time it faced that scenario in the first round in 1996.
Game 4 is Saturday at MSG.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Devils - 101 points; 3rd seed. Rangers - 100 points; 6th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Madden, 3 goals; Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner, 4 assists; Elias, 6 points; Cam Janssen, 9 PIM. Rangers - Petr Prucha and Blair Betts, 1 goal; four with 1 assist; six with 1 point; Ryan Hollweg, 19 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Devils - Power play: 31.6 percent (6 for 19). Penalty killing: 92.3 percent (12 for 13). Rangers - Power play: 7.7 percent (1 for 13). Penalty killing: 68.4 percent (13 for 19).
GOALTENDERS: Devils - Brodeur (2-0, 1.01 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (no appearances). Rangers - Lundqvist (0-1, 6.00); Weekes (0-1-0, 4.00).