The Devils line up for the traditional handshake to close out their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Friday night at Prudential Center.
newjerseydevils.com (April 18) – The Devils' first season at Prudential Center has come to a disappointing end.
Facing elimination on home ice, the Devils allowed four straight goals to the New York Rangers, who held on for a 5-3 win in Game 5 on Friday night.
The Rangers wrapped up the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, four games to one.
Jaromir Jagr had a goal and two assists and Chris Drury's marker in the second period held up as the eventual gamewinner. The Devils rallied on goals by Bryce Salvador and Patrik Elias, but could not overcome a three-goal deficit.
John Madden was awarded the first postseason penalty shot in club history, but came up short with the Devils needing a goal to tie in the third period.
"You need a lot of things going in the right direction, and we just didn't," Madden said. "We didn't have it all going at the same time."
The Devils lost for the 11th time in 13 meetings with the Rangers this year, including a 1-4-3 mark in the regular season. New Jersey went its final 15 games without a victory in regulation.
Brian Gionta's first goal of the playoffs put the Devils on top early, and the Rangers responded 18 seconds later to tie. New York potted its second 1:40 later to climb ahead 2-1 and never looked back.
Martin Brodeur finished with 18 saves after allowing three goals on seven shots in the opening frame. The Devils lost three home games in a playoff series for the first time in club history and made a first-round exit for the first time since 2004.
"We had a 99-point regular season when not a lot of people gave us credit for what we've done and the way we've played," head coach Brent Sutter said. "We didn't start playing in the series until halfway through the second game. Again, too many mistakes.
"Our team took a lot of pride in playing well without the puck, especially in our own zone. We just didn't do enough to be successful. That's the bottom line."
The Devils got off to a quick start, going ahead 1-0. Gionta, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus skated into Rangers' territory on a 3-on-2 against Christian Backman and Paul Mara. Zubrus put a heavy hit on Backman in the right corner, freeing up the puck for Zajac, who carried around the net to hit Gionta in the slot at 4:40.
But the lead didn't last, as New York struck twice in the next 1:58 to wipe out the deficit and take a one-goal lead.
A defensive lapse in front of the Devils' net left Michal Rozsival alone in front to bang home Jagr's feed from the end boards at 4:58. Shortly afterward, Elias was whistled for slashing and the Rangers capitalized on the man advantage.
Jagr buried his second of the series to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Rangers at the 6:38 mark of the first.
"We did enough things to beat ourselves," Sutter said. "Full marks to the Rangers, they didn't make the mistakes we made... The way these two teams play, the team that made the least amount of mistakes was going to win the series."
Sean Avery's stuff attempt led to Scott Gomez' third of the series and a 3-1 New York lead with 1:59 left in the first. Then, less than six minutes into the second, Drury made it 4-1 when he collected a cross-slot pass from Nigel Dawes and found the back of the net from the right circle.
A fluky goal from Salvador got the Devils within a pair.
Salvador slapped a dump attempt from just beyond the Rangers' blueline, and the puck redirected off the arm of New York forward Brandon Dubinsky. The shot dipped on Henrik Lundqvist, catching a piece of the left post and bouncing off his back before sliding over the line at 9:26.
The Devils' power play, which had gone 1-for-9 in the first two home games of the series, soon narrowed the gap on a two-man advantage.
Jamie Langenbrunner passed from the top of the right circle to Zach Parise set up at the right of the cage. Parise's one-timer rebounded off Lundqvist before Elias shoveled in the rebound at 13:50 for his series-leading fourth goal.
The Devils' all-time leading scorer in the postseason, Elias recorded at least a point in every game in the series. He contributed four goals over the final three contests, finishing with a club-high six points (4g-2a), followed by Parise with five (1g-4a).
Third periods were less than kind to the Devils in these playoffs, and the Rangers had outscored them 8-2 in the final frames entering Game 5. Still, New Jersey needed just one to tie when Madden was hauled down by Dan Girardi at 12:52 and awarded a penalty shot.
On his attempt, Madden drifted left before cutting toward the middle of the ice. He faked to his forehand and tried a backhander through Lundqvist's pads, but was denied.
Brodeur headed for the bench for an extra skater with 1:11 remaining, and Dubinsky iced the contest on an empty-netter with 59.1 seconds left.
NJD NOTES The Devils fell to 1-8 in playoff series in which they trailed three games to one, and slip to 14-15 in the last 29 games in which they faced elimination... Gionta, Zajac and Zubrus each recorded their first point of the series on New Jersey's first goal. Gionta led the Devils with eight goals in the 2007 postseason... Salvador's goal was his third in 41 career playoff games.