Devils 3, Rangers 1
NEWARK -- New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur reminded forward David Clarkson before the season started that if he wanted to score 30 goals again he would have to ramp up his pace from a year ago, when he didn't hit the mark until he played in his 79th game.
Clarkson is listening. He's on pace for 37 goals.
He scored twice Tuesday, giving him seven goals in nine games, to help the Devils to a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers at Prudential Center. Clarkson also had an assist on Adam Henrique's goal that opened the scoring five minutes into the game and Brodeur made 24 saves in a first-star effort for his 47th career win over the Rangers.
Patrik Elias assisted on all three goals for his second three-point game of the season as the Devils improved to 5-1-3.
"He's not the most talented player, but he's a guy that always puts himself in good situations and he's not a guy that is scared to always be in the middle of things," Brodeur said of Clarkson. "And he's getting bounces now. I'm going to tell him he's lucky, but he's not lucky; he's creating his own luck. There's a lot to be said for goal scorers who create their own luck."
Devils coach Peter DeBoer didn't put together the line of Henrique between Elias and Clarkson until the morning skate Tuesday. They had instant chemistry and combined for seven points.
"Rico [Henrique] is a skilled player, he reads the play well and hopefully we can just keep going the same way," Elias said. "We had a few shifts in their zone with good opportunities. As long as we're creating chances and we're solid defensively, which I thought we were, we've gotta be pretty happy with that."
The Rangers, who were playing without injured defenseman Dan Girardi for the first time in 121 regular-season games, got only a third-period goal from rookie Chris Kreider. Brad Richards had an assist, but combined with Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik, the Rangers' big three was minus-5.
Making things worse for the Rangers was their power play, which has been problematic all season. They went 0-for-5 with only three shots on goal Tuesday. They got the three shots on goal in four failed power-play chances during the first period.
The Rangers are now 3-for-35 (8.6 percent) on the power play this season.
"You know my answer and I'm not going to go through it here," Rangers coach John Tortorella said when asked about the struggling power play. "We're the better team 5-on-5 [Tuesday night]; it was the special teams that let us down.
"It's been a struggle," he added in reference to the power play. "It hurt us again."
The Devils would like to think their penalty killing had something to do with it. They are 15-for-15 in the last three games; and the PK has helped them win the last two games by going 12-for-12.
"Our PK the last two games has looked like it did for long stretches last year," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We're killing with confidence."
DeBoer was also quick to say that it starts with goaltending, and he couldn't have been more spot-on Tuesday.
Brodeur preserved the Devils' early 1-0 lead with a dazzling right pad save on Marc Staal during a Rangers' power play with 4:22 left in the first period. With Devils defenseman Andy Greene in the penalty box serving a double minor for high-sticking Arron Asham, Staal received a cross-slot pass from Kreider and tried to deposit the puck into the net, but Brodeur cut across the crease, stuck out his leg and got a piece of the shot before falling on top of the puck.
"I saw Kreider, he had an opportunity to shoot, and I saw his eyes looking back door and I was like, 'I gotta get there,'" Brodeur said of the save on Staal. "It was just desperation and I got a little lucky."
Two minutes after Greene was released, Nash fumbled the puck at his feet, leaving it alone in the slot for Clarkson to hammer past Lundqvist.
Clarkson gave the Devils a 3-0 lead with his fourth power-play goal of the season 2:53 into the third period.
"He's picked up right where he left off last year," DeBoer said. "I think the big test for him was to prove that he wasn't a flash-in-the-pan 30-goal guy, that he could do that on a consistent basis. I think he's proving that."
Kreider, playing in his first game since Jan. 23, scored less than four minutes later when he took a pass from Richards in the left circle and beat Brodeur high to the stick side for his first goal of the season and his first in an NHL regular-season game -- though he had five for New York in last spring's playoffs. However, Brodeur kept the score at 3-1 when he came up with a sterling glove save on Carl Hagelin's redirect attempt off a Nash centering feed with 7:28 left in the third.
"I could tell, I don't know if [Nash] was tired, but he slowed down a bit and was looking for a trailer pass so I knew he was not going to shoot the puck," Brodeur said. "With his long reach he was able to get around our defenseman and make that pass, but Hagelin got handcuffed. He kind of chipped it. It wasn't that hard coming at me, so I stayed up as long as I could and I was able to get a glove on it."
Clearly looking for an offensive jump, Tortorella switched up his lines with just over three minutes left in the second period, moving Richards away from Nash and Gaborik.
He spent the rest of the night mixing and matching among a handful of forwards, including rookies Kreider and J.T. Miller, who was making his NHL debut and had been centering the fourth line. Tortorella used Miller on the wing when he moved him up in the lineup.
Kreider and Miller combined for 17 shifts in the third period after combining for only 19 through the first two periods.
"They will probably take some people's jobs," Tortorella said of Kreider and Miller. "I tell you what, our hockey club right now, we have some guys who are really playing hard and we got some guys that looked scared and tentative.
"I'm not waiting," he added. "We have some guys who are tentative and careful and we don't play careful hockey."
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