The New Jersey Devils carried momentum - but not history - into their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers.
Now, they have both.
The Devils seek their 15th straight victory and a four-game sweep of the Rangers as the teams play at Madison Square Garden.
New Jersey, which has won the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003, ended the regular season with an 11-game winning streak to overtake New York and Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division title and third seed in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers ended the regular season with a five-game losing streak, but had won three previous playoff series against the Devils.
The Rangers - outscored 10-2 in two losses at New Jersey - were hoping a return home would end their struggles. But Jamie Langenbrunner scored 68 seconds into the game, and Brodeur stopped 25 shots for his 21st playoff shutout as the Devils posted a 3-0 victory Wednesday.
Patrik Elias set up Langenbrunner's goal and doubled the lead at 9:20 of the first period when he put a rebound past rookie Henrik Lundqvist
History suggests a 3-0 series lead is virtually insurmountable. Only two teams - the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders - have ever won series after trailing 3-0, but Brodeur is not overconfident.
"I don't think our approach will change that much because we're up 3-nothing," Brodeur said. "We just don't want to give them life. We are definitely scared of that hockey club. This is a big rivalry here and we're definitely excited about the situation that we're in but we haven't won anything yet."
Brodeur's 21 postseason shutouts are two behind Patrick Roy for the all-time NHL lead, and the veteran Devils goaltender will tie another record Roy holds in this game with his 136th career playoff start.
Jaromir Jagr, who suffered a left shoulder injury at the end of Game 1 and missed Game 2, gamely tried to play Wendesday. However, Jagr was unable to create much an offensive presence and had only one shot on goal in over 17 minutes of ice time.
"It's the playoffs. If I can play, I'm going to play," said Jagr, who set single-season team records of 54 goals and 123 points. "I knew it wasn't going to be any good. I tried my best. We have to keep the next game close. We have to be able to score and not make any mistakes. We have to try to get one win and then you never know. Anything is possible. We have nothing to lose. We are almost dead."
Despite the poor showing Wednesday, Jagr is optimistic his shoulder will get better.
"I've got two more days to get better," said Jagr, who practiced Thursday. "The last game ... I didn't know how it was going to hurt. I have the experience to play with it. That is huge. The good thing is it didn't get any worse. I've got nothing to lose, the way I look at it. We're down three-nothing. If we lose, I've got four months to get it better. That's plenty of time."
Rangers defenseman Darius Kasparaitis also is expected to return after missing the last two games with a groin injury.
If the Rangers win, the Devils will host Game 5 on Sunday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Devils - 101 points; 3rd seed. Rangers - 100 points; 6th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Elias and John Madden, 3 goals; Elias and Langenbrunner, 5 assists; Elias, 8 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: 28.6 percent (6 for 21). Penalty killing: 93.8 percent (15 for 16). Rangers - Power play: 6.2 percent (1 for 16). Penalty killing: 71.4 percent (15 for 21).
GOALTENDERS: Devils - Brodeur (3-0, 1 SO, 0.67 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (no appearances). Rangers - Lundqvist (0-2, 4.51); Kevin Weekes (0-1-0, 4.00).