By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Where the Rangers won Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Devils Monday night with an overpowering three-goal third period, they dropped Game 2 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden by surrendering the tie-breaking score in that very same third period. As a result the Devils skated to a 3-2 victory over the Rangers and the best-of-seven series is now tied 1-1, with Game 3 set for Saturday afternoon at the Prudential Center.
The Rangers have now lost all three of their Game Twos of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs---all by the same 3-2 score at The Garden. Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves in the loss, while Martin Brodeur stopped 23 shots for the Devils.
It did not take long for the Devils to snap a 2-2 tie early in the third period. David Clarkson deflected Adam Henrique's shot into the Rangers net just 2:31 into the third to give the Devils a 3-2 advantage. The play was briefly reviewed for a possible high-sticked deflection, but it was determined that Clarkson's stick was below shoulder level when he made contact with the puck.
Shortly thereafter the Rangers had a power play---Steve Bernier off for Interfering with Marc Staal after hammering him hard and high into the boards---and had several good looks, but failed to put the puck past Brodeur.
The two teams exchanged one-goal leads and found themselves deadlocked 2-2 after 40 minutes of play, the second straight game in this series in which the score was tied entering the third period. Trailing 1-0 after an Ilya Kovalchuk power play goal in the first period, the Rangers took advanatge of a pair of offensive zone penalties by New Jersey in the second to grab a 2-1 lead. But a late second-period goal by the Devils Ryan Carter tied the score before the intermission arrived.
Staal pulled the Rangers even at 1-1 at 2:23 of the middle stanza when his right-point power-play slap shot hit the back boards and then caromed into the net off the back of Brodeur's pad with the Devils goalie under pressure from Derek Stepan in front. The goal---somewhat flukey as it was---turned the tide in the Rangers favor after New Jersey had controlled large stretches of the opening period.
The Rangers scored another power-play goal at 12:19 of the second period to take their first lead of the game, 2-1. Anton Stralman accepted an Artem Anisimov feed, skated in on right wing and fired towards the net where Chris Kreider not only screened Brodeur, but tipped the puck past him, as well. The goal was Kreider's fourth of the playoffs and second in as many games of this series.
However the Devils tied it up with 1:51 to play in the second period when Carter---back to the net---redirected a Bryce Salvador shot past Lundqvist for his second post-season goal.