newjerseydevils.com – With their backs against the wall, the Devils hope to extend their first-round playoff series one game at a time.
The Devils trail three games to one in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the New York Rangers, and try to avoid elimination in tonight's Game 5 at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m., MSG+, Bloomberg 1130 AM).
While the contests have been relatively close, the Rangers have made goaltender Martin Brodeur pay physically.
The three-time Vezina Trophy winner has been harassed by Sean Avery all four games and been run over a couple of times, with Jaromir Jagr knocking him down on a move out of the corner in the Rangers' 5-3 win in Game 4.
"Right now they are creating their things," Brodeur said Thursday. "We allowed them to go to the net and they are taking full advantage of me. The referees are not calling anything that isn't 100 percent interference. If it's in the 90s, they are going to think about it and let it play. It's fine with me. I don't have a problem with it. They are definitely pushing."
Most of Brodeur's teammates are not happy with either the Rangers' running of Brodeur or the officials lack of calls to protect him.
"You want to protect him but you don't want to put your team down either," defenseman Mike Mottau said. "If someone does something outside the rules, you have to take exception, but going to the net to score goals, there is going to be some incidental contact. But it seems to be happening a lot."
Brodeur fondly remembered the old times when former Devils Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko used to patrol the crease area before the NHL went to a more wide-open style.
If someone messed with the goalie, they would pay a price for it.
"It was a lot different when I had different players that were allowed to do different things out there," Brodeur said. It's a new game now."
New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has barely been touched compared to Brodeur.
However, the Devils did seem to go to the net more on Wednesday night.
Mottau's game-tying goal early in the third period came shortly after Zach Parise skated through the crease and knocked Lundqvist's stick out of his hands.
"You just try to be big and strong and not back in too much," Lundqvist said. "I play deeper than Marty, so maybe I don't have as many guys bump into me. When you're more aggressive in your style, you're going to have more guys bump into you."
Bumps aside, the Devils also have to play smarter hockey. The Rangers first four goals on Wednesday were the result of mistakes. The last goal was scored into an empty net.
"We know we have given up chances that we have not wanted to," Brian Gionta said. "Defense is how we win and that's what we have to get to."
While they have lost 10 of 12 games with the Rangers this season, the Devils are still confident. They have been competitive in every game in this series, but need to improve their third-period play.
All three game-winning goals by New York have been scored in the final frame.
There have been 18 teams that have rallied to win series after trailing 3-1. New Jersey did it to Philadelphia in the 2000 Eastern Conference finals.
"You have to be patient and play your game, not worry about it," Brodeur said. "You have to play to live another day and that's what we are doing. We are hanging on to our season, to our playoff chances. We have to push the envelope as far as we can."
with AP wire services
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