The Devils celebrate a big win against a familiar opponent Friday in Newark.
newjerseydevils.com – Brent Sutter won't have to answer any more questions about why his club struggles against the New York Rangers.
Sutter's resilient Devils dominated their Hudson River rivals early, then overcame a furious Rangers rally to secure a thrilling 8-5 victory Friday at Prudential Center.
It was gut-check time for the Devils, who blew a 5-1 second-period lead before scoring three goals on three straight shots against Henrik Lundqvist in the third period.
Patrik Elias broke a 5-5 tie at 11:29 of the third, just 11 seconds after Ryan Callahan had scored the fourth straight New York goal to bring the Rangers back from a four-goal deficit. Elias got his team-leading fourth game-winner from the bottom of the left circle by tapping home a feed from Dainius Zubrus.
Brian Gionta and Jamie Langenbrunner then scored in a span of 2:03 for some insurance and fueled the Devils to their first-ever regulation win over the Rangers at Prudential Center.
"Well if I wasn't bald before, I'm really bald now," Sutter joked afterward. "It was a big win. I thought we played well. I thought we did a lot of good things here."
Sutter had said Friday morning that questions regarding his team's play against the Rangers would persist until they found a way to beat them. For the first time this season – and for just the second time in 11 regular-season meetings under the second-year head coach – the Devils accomplished just that.
Travis Zajac scored twice, and seven different Devils cracked the scoresheet for their first eight-goal game at home since Feb. 25, 2004. Jay Pandolfo and Johnny Oduya stung New York for two shorthanded goals as the Rangers' power play finished 0-for-9 and a minus-2.
Zach Parise recorded a career-high four assists and Gionta added three of his own. Elias and Zubrus each had a goal and two helpers.
Sutter said he never doubted the outcome.
"I thought the guys were pretty much in control through it all," he said. "Sometimes those things happen, hopefully it won't happen very often. I didn't sense any panic whatsoever. I thought they were in control, just things were happening – a couple of unfortunate goals against us. I thought we did a lot of good things."
What the Devils (16-8-2) did was maintain the incredible roll that has them on a four-game winning streak with nine victories in their last 10 heading into Saturday's meeting with Buffalo. New Jersey has lost once since Nov. 14.
Scott Clemmensen made 31 saves for his sixth win in seven straight starts. With eight victories, the eighth-year pro now has more wins in 2008-09 than he had in 28 career appearances entering this season.
Clemmensen allowed a pair of goals that he'd no doubt like to have back. Paul Mara scored New York's fourth on a floater from the blue line at 1:28 of the third, and Callahan's tying goal from the bottom of the left circle found an opening as Clemmensen hugged the left post. But the veteran netminder was bailed out on the other end by his Devils teammates.
"This team has shown me a lot over the past six weeks," said Sutter. "Tonight was just another fact of resiliency. We didn't get too caught up on what was going on. We just continued to play."
The Rangers took seven of eight against the Devils last season and needed five games to capture their first-round playoff series. New Jersey's 3-2 shootout decision in last year's regular-season finale prevented a New York sweep of the 2007-08 season series.
The Devils dropped their first two meetings with the Rangers this season, but the drought ended Friday with their first regulation win over the Rangers since Feb. 20, 2007.
Eight seconds into New York's first power play of the night, the Devils took the lead on Pandolfo's seventh-career shorthanded goal.
Bryce Salvador chipped the puck by Dan Girardi at the right point, and John Madden skated up ice with Pandolfo on a 2-on-1 against Wade Redden. Redden came across to cover Madden at the left boards, leaving the middle of the ice wide open. Pandolfo collected Madden's pass and beat Lundqvist with a wrister, inside the right post, for his third of the season at 4:04.
With the assist, Salvador added points in back-to-back contests for the first time this season (3a).
Markus Naslund evened the score with a goal that was waved off on the ice, but allowed to stand following a video review. A cross-slot pass from Scott Gomez deflected into the net off Naslund's right skate making it 1-1 at 15:54. It was ruled that Naslund had not used a kicking motion to direct the puck into the net.
A high-energy first period offered a pair of fights, as Mike Rupp earned a decision over Colton Orr with a flurry of rights at 11:56, and David Clarkson popped the helmet off of Aaron Voros before completing a takedown at 14:54.
Zajac potted the first of two straight goals at 16:59 with the Devils on the power play. He got his sixth of the season with a one-timer of Elias' pass through Michal Roszival, then added his seventh just one minute into the middle frame.
Parise shrugged off Marc Staal in the right corner, then carrried behind the net to find Zajac at the left circle. Zajac's first shot was stopped by Lundqvist, but the third-year centerman followed up his own rebound to put the Devils on top 3-1 at 1:00.
The Rangers' power play had 21 goals entering Friday's game, and has been only slightly less productive for their opponents this season. Oduya's shorthanded goal at the 7:31 mark of the second was the Devils' second of the game, and represented the 10th allowed by New York, a league high.
Zubrus' second goal in as many games then put the Devils ahead by a 5-1 count. He scored his eighth by roofing a backhander over Lundqvist from the slot at 11:33.
The New York comeback from a four-goal deficit began with Nikolai Zherdev's wraparound at 15:46 of the second. Gomez made it 5-3 with under two minutes left in the middle frame.
After goals from Mara and Callahan had made it 5-5, Elias broke the tie with his fourth goal in as many games.
Gionta shoveled the puck from behind the net in front to Zubrus, who hit a streaking Elias for the go-ahead goal from the bottom of the left circle. Elias now has eight points (4g-4a) in his last five contests.
Zubrus set up Gionta's tally with a pass from the left boards to the right hash marks, and Gionta was untouched as he tucked a backhander around Lundqvist's right pad at 13:04.
Bobby Holik picked up the first point of his second stint in New Jersey with an assist on Langenbrunner's goal. Holik dumped the puck from the right boards to Parise behind the net, and the Devils' leading scorer fed an unguarded Langenbrunner in the slot for a one-timer at 15:07 for New Jersey's eighth goal.
The Devils were outshot 14-4 in the third period... Gionta scored New Jersey's only other shorthanded goal this season on Nov. 21 against the Islanders... Forward Petr Vrana was placed on waivers Friday.
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