newjerseydevils.com (April 9) – This was not the start the Devils had envisioned.
Tied 1-1 after two periods, the Devils allowed three third-period goals en route to a 4-1 loss in Game 1 of their opening-round matchup against the New York Rangers Wednesday night at Prudential Center.
Ryan Callahan's shorthanded tally broke the tie at 7:23 of the third and Sean Avery scored with 2:53 left to put the game out of reach.
New Jersey's troubles against their Hudson River rivals continued into the teams' first meeting of the postseason. The Devils managed one goal in the contest after scoring just nine times in eight regular season meetings with the Rangers (1-4-3) .
Paul Martin's power-play goal was all the Devils would get against Henrik Lundqvist, who posted 26 saves in the win.
Martin Brodeur made 24 stops in his 165th playoff start, moving closer to Patrick Roy's all-time mark of 247.
Just one second remained on New Jersey's third power play of the night, when Callahan notched the deciding goal in the final frame.
As time expired on Michal Rozsival's minor for holding the stick, Callahan threw one on goal from the right circle. Ex-Devil Scott Gomez drew two Devils defenders to him when he crossed in front of Brodeur. Callahan, meanwhile, continued around the net.
Just as Brodeur lunged to his right to clear the rebound, Callahan came around the left post to chop the puck off Brodeur's stick and over the line.
"There was only a couple of seconds left on the power play and you give up a shorthanded goal at that point in the game," head coach Brent Sutter said. "You can't do that this time of year, that's the bottom line. You have to take advantage of your power plays, or else it's going to hurt you."
The Devils were held to one goal or less five times during the season series with New York, but will look to regain their scoring touch and even the series when the teams meet for Game 2 in Newark on Friday night.
The scoreless first period wasn't without its share of twists, turns and crossbars.
Jaromir Jagr came within inches of putting the Rangers ahead when his sweeping one-timer of a Martin Straka pass hit the inside of the right post and caromed across the goal mouth at 8:06.
Later, Sergei Brylin jumped on Fedor Tyutin's neutral-zone miscue and skated in on a breakaway before putting one off the crossbar behind Lundqvist at 11:05.
With 16.5 seconds remaining in the opening frame, strong pressure by the Rangers led to an interference minor on Martin.
Martin's penalty carried over 1:44 in the second period, and the Devils blueliner was just exiting the box when New York struck for the first lead.
Gomez took an Avery pass in the neutral zone and carried into Devils territory where he found Brendan Shanahan for a wrister from the top of the right circle. Gomez drove to the front of the net for a screen, and Shanahan's shot found the far side for an even-strength tally at 1:45.
Late in the second period, with Gomez serving two for hooking, the Devils responded.
Patrik Elias passed across the slot to Martin at the right circle, where Martin evaded a block attempt by Tyutin. The Devils' top-scoring defenseman in the regular season then beat Lundqvist stick side for his first power-play goal of the postseason at 14:14.
It was one of the Devils' 27 shots in the game that got through to Lundqvist. The Rangers' defenders blocked 16 others.
Elias, the Devils' all-time leader in postseason goals (35), assists (70), and points (105), nearly made it 2-1 with 2:25 remaining. Zach Parise slid a pass across the top of the crease for an Elias one-timer that was robbed by Lundqvist.
Brodeur returned the favor minutes later with a brilliant glove save on Shanahan's try from the right faceoff dot with 35.5 remaining in the second.
In the third period, after Callahan had made it 2-1, Gomez added his third helper of the game by drawing Martin and Bryce Salvador to him at the bottom of the left circle. He slipped the puck back through the slot to Avery, who upped the New York lead to 3-1 at 17:07.
The Devils pressed late, but couldn't draw any closer despite outshooting the Rangers 12-7 in the third. Dainius Zubrus' shot from the left side carried over Lundqvist's left shoulder and rang off the crossbar with 1:52 left.
Nigel Dawes' empty-netter closed out the scoring with 4.5 seconds on the clock.
"Other than a couple of mistakes, we played a pretty good hockey game tonight," Sutter said. "We had some quality scoring chances, hit some posts, hit the crossbar. At the end of the day, you still lose the game. That's the bottom line and you're down one now."
NJD NOTES New Jersey entered Wednesday's game with a mark of 3-1 in postseason openers since 2003... The playoff loss was the Devils' first versus the Rangers since Game 5 of the 1997 Semifinals. New Jersey swept their last meeting with New York in the 2006 Quarterfinals.
Salvador returned to make his Devils playoff debut after missing the final 10 games of the regular season with a sore foot. The rugged defenseman saw 18:36 of ice time in 25 shifts... Zubrus and Mike Rupp helped lead New Jersey's physical play, each collecting a team-leading five hits. The Devils recorded 34 hits to the Rangers' 27... The last shorthanded goal allowed by the Devils was scored by Dean McAmmond in Game 1 of last year's Eastern Conference Semifinal against Ottawa.
1 - 0 NYR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NYR