The Devils celebrate one of Patrik Elias' two goals in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
newjerseydevils.com (April 16) – The Devils' uphill battle begins Friday.
Looking to draw even in their opening-round series with the New York Rangers, the Devils valiantly rallied three times before Marc Staal's first career playoff goal broke a 3-3 tie at 16:47 of the third period.
Scott Gomez added an empty-netter to seal a 5-3 defeat for the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.
With the game tied late in regulation, Patrik Elias missed an opportunity to clear after a shot from the left side by Jaromir Jagr. Martin Straka controlled near the blue line and hit an oncoming Staal for a blast from the left point that found the back of the net.
It was the fourth lead of the night for the Rangers, who dropped the Devils to a 3-1 deficit in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal. Game 5 is set for Friday night at Prudential Center.
"[The Devils] don't give up," the 21-year-old Staal said. "They kept fighting back. They skate very well but I was waiting for them to quit. They just keep coming back."
This was a frustrating outcome for a Devils club that played some of its most inspired hockey of the series. Three New York leads were neutralized by the Devils, who would not concede an inch in a hostile, sold-out Garden.
Elias led New Jersey's resilient effort. The Devils' all-time leading scorer in the postseason tallied twice in Game 4, tying the contest after the Devils had fallen behind 1-0 and 2-1.
"We came out better than they did," Elias said. "We had more opportunities. It's frustrating; it's not about individuality, it's about the team. We made too many mistakes."
Martin Brodeur faced 38 shots in his 168th postseason appearance, recording 34 saves.
Playing in his first career postseason series, Devils defenseman Mike Mottau notched an important goal with his first playoff point to tie the game 3-3 early in the third.
Before New Jersey could pull ahead, however, Staal put New York on top for good.
Six current Devils have overcome these odds before. Elias, Brodeur, Sergei Brylin, Jay Pandolfo, John Madden, and Colin White were all part of the squad that shocked the Flyers in the 2000 Eastern Conference final after falling behind three games to one.
But first things first.
"Our next step is winning the next game and trying to get the series back [to the Garden]," Madden said.
"We missed some opportunities and turned the puck over and they were able to capitalize on their chances," he added. "That was the difference tonight."
Turnovers and miscues proved the Devils' undoing, leading to four goals against. Head coach Brent Sutter said that reducing those unforced errors will be one of the keys for Game 5.
"We are a good hockey team when we do things right," Sutter said. "You can't give up five goals in the playoffs if you're going to win."
The Devils trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes on the first goal of the series by Gomez. Jamie Langenbrunner couldn't clear at the left point, and Dan Girardi got a shot toward the net for a power-play redirection by the ex-Devil at 12:37.
New Jersey was outshot 12-6 in the opening period, and three of those six shots came on one high-pressure shift by the line of Pandolfo, Madden, and Gionta at the seven-minute mark.
Elias then took control in the second period, tying the game, 1-1, just 31 seconds in off of a Langenbrunner rebound.
After Brandon Dubinsky chipped the puck past White to set up Straka's goal on a 2-on-1 at 2:53, Elias answered the bell yet again.
With the Rangers shorthanded for too many men on the ice, Elias collected a Johnny Oduya pass in the left corner. He curled around the left faceoff dot before surprising Lundqvist shortside at 6:58.
Just as they had in the first, the Devils ended the second trailing by a goal.
When Zach Parise's backhand try along the left boards failed to clear the zone, Fedor Tyutin was able to put a shot toward Brodeur for a Chris Drury redirection in the slot at 12:39.
Parise and Langenbrunner finished the evening with two assists.
The Devils roared out of the second intermission, dominating the early moments of the third period. Mottau put New Jersey back in it at 3-3 after putting a nifty move on Tyutin at the right circle and beating Lundqvist at 4:37.
Staal's tally made it 4-3 before Gomez scored into the empty net with 12.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
NJD NOTES Elias' team-high third goal of the series was also his third game-tying tally. His first tied Game 3 at 2-2... The Devils successfully killed off Travis Zajac's four-minute double-minor for high sticking in the second period, limiting the Rangers to two shots... Vitaly Vishnevski belted out a couple of New Jersey's best hits of the series, pounding Ryan Callahan at 17:45 and 18:45 of the middle frame. Vishnevski finished with a team-best six hits on the evening... The Rangers became the first home team in the series to win or score first... The Devils have gone 14 games without a regulation win, including 10 to close out the regular season.
1 - 0 NYR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NYR
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NYR
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 NYR
5 - 3 NYR
Too many men/ice - bench
Hi stick - double minor
Interference on goalkeeper