Matt Corrente drops the hammer on Sean Avery in Wednesday's game.
With the work ethic they brought to the ice Wednesday, it’s only a matter of time before the Devils will have something to show for it.
They seemed like a new team after their first two days of practice under Jacques Lemaire. They finished checks, won battles for loose pucks, and pounded shot after shot on Henrik Lundqvist.
“I think that we played more intense, definitely,” Lemaire said. “More intense than we’ve been doing.”
In the end, the deciding bounce went against them. Michal Rozsival’s goal off of Andy Greene’s glove broke a 1-1 tie at 13:22 of the second period and the Devils fell, 3-1, despite outshooting the visiting Rangers, 44-26.
“There were a lot of positives,” said Jason Arnott, who was a crossbar away from tying things up during a Devils power play with 2:18 left in regulation. “We played hard, it just didn’t go our way.”
Martin Brodeur delivered a strong 23-save performance, including several clutch stops during a frenzied second period in which the teams combined for 32 shots. Rozsival’s winner was simply a bad break.
“Par for the course for us this year,” Brodeur said. “Another bad goal, bad bounce to beat us or change the momentum of a game, anyway. It’s been like that all year. We worked really hard, and it’s too bad it had to happen like that. We had plenty of time to recover from that goal and we didn’t.”
More urgency, more confidence, more rush on the puck. That’s what Jacques has been trying get us to do, get more guys on the puck as much as possible, get it going forward instead of always backing up. We were on them tonight, we just couldn’t find the (back of the) net.- Jason Arnott
Lemaire’s group opened the scoring for the first time in seven games, taking a 1-0 first-period lead on Travis Zajac’s fifth of the year. Brian Boyle evened things up 57 seconds later with the first of three unanswered New York goals.
Brandon Dubinsky added an empty-netter with 5.5 seconds to go in regulation.
“We started doing a lot more things that Jacques has been telling us tonight and it paid off,” Arnott said. “If we keep playing like that, we’re going to win hockey games.”
The Battle of the Hudson always brings out the intensity in both clubs, and the latest installment was no exception. Dainius Zubrus dropped the gloves for a rare fight with Boyle in th second. Matt Corrente returned to the lineup to throw two big hits on Sean Avery.
“When you look at the way we played, the way we competed, it was a lot better,” Brodeur said. “It was a lot more fun out there to play that game, that’s for sure.”
Despite coming up short for a sixth straight game, the Devils (9-25-2) felt as though this one finally represented a step in the right direction. Arnott called it, “probably the hardest working game we’ve played this year.”
Zajac felt they deserved a better outcome.
“I think there’s been games where we score one goal, but probably don’t deserve to score more,” Zajac noted. “Tonight I felt the other way. We scored one, but we definitely deserved to get more than one goal tonight.”
Brodeur earned Third Star honors.
Good pressure by Zajac’s line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Mattias Tedenby created a scramble in front and led to the first goal. Zajac would jam home a loose puck to light the lamp at 6:31 of the first.
“Kovy and Teddy are whacking at it, doing a good job, and the puck was just lying there and I was able to poke it by (Lundqvist),” Zajac said.
The Devils have tallied exactly one goal in each game on their current skid, but there were uplifting signs this time around.
“It’s frustrating not winning again, but I guess we played pretty good,” Zajac said. “We put up almost 50 shots. We have to take some kind of positive out of this.”
Despite a withering Devils attack – they outshot the Rangers 16-5 in the first, 20-12 in the second – the Rangers rallied to erase the one-goal deficit.
With the Devils caught in a change, Boyle’s shot from the left circle tied the game.
“It wasn’t that hard, but it was a quick shot,” Brodeur said. “He got it close to his skate and just let it go. He caught me moving because he released it so quick and it just hit the bottom of my glove.”
In the second, Rozsival’s quick rip from the right circle went off Greene and beat Brodeur to his shortside at 13:22. Just 36 seconds later, Zajac sent Tedenby in on a breakaway that Lundqvist denied.
“I saw the play developing and it’s kind of one of those things where I’m trying to get into the shot lane,” Greene said. “It went off my glove and went in. Pretty sure I saw the replay and it was going wide. That’s the way it goes.”
Brodeur, who was razor sharp, put together an array of excellent saves to weather New York pressure in the second. He flashed the glove on Marian Gaborik’s wrister during a Rangers power play in the middle frame, and stood tall on several New York chances from the doorstep.
He foiled Dubinsky in front at 9:16, then made a sprawling save on Avery's swipe with 3:31 to go in the period.
Devils penalty killers had to be good during Arnott’s double-minor at 5:41 of the third period. They allowed four shots in four minutes, dodging a bullet when Matt Gilroy’s blast went off the crossbar with 38 seconds left on the kill.
“I yelled (at the referee),” said Arnott, who was called for holding Boyle before receiving an additional unsportsmanlike conduct. “I didn’t swear at him. I was a little surprised he gave me the extra two, but I should’ve just gone to the box. It was a bad time of the game. It was stupid on my part. I think it was just frustration trying to get into the game. I should’ve just gone to the box.”
The Devils squandered two power plays in the final 9:53 of regulation, including a man advantage courtesy of Chris Drury’s holding minor with 3:57 left.
Coach's quotes Wednesday marked the season debut of Vladimir Zharkov, who was recalled from Albany (AHL) on Monday. He skated with Zubrus and David Clarkson.
"Zharky, I like what he did," Lemaire said. "He's skating, he's on the puck. He plays with a lot of energy, which I like. We need this from all the guys."
Lemaire was asked whether his practices had an impact in Wednesday's improvement.
"That's a good question," he said. "My easy answer would be a 'yes.' What kills me is that last goal (Dubinsky empty net). On a face-off, the puck is right there. We let the guy go, he shoots into an open net. That is frustrating."
Devils notes The Devils fell to 0-3 against the Rangers, and are 0-3 this season when registering 40 or more shots. They conclude the homestand with Friday's 5 p.m. start against Atlanta.