The New York Rangers played an uncharacteristically sloppy game, and the New Jersey Devils took full advantage Tuesday night at Prudential Center by routing the NHL's top team 4-1 thanks in large part to a 3-goal third period.
At the Rangers' morning skate prior to the game Tuesday, coach John Tortorella told the press that despite New York's record, he saw a lot of room for improvement in his club, saying they needed to work on "everything." Those words seem prophetic now, as a lack of defensive structure and puck discipline resulted in a very discouraging loss for the Rangers.
The first goal was a warning to the Blueshirts that this one could be a long one, as Ilya Kovalchuk pounced on a puck Marian Gaborik lost in the neutral zone, then proceeded to make a number of Rangers players look foolish. The last of which was Ryan McDonagh, who fell down on the play. Kovalchuk, 26 goals, was all over the ice, finishing with a game-high eight shots on goal while breaking his 10-game goalless streak.
About two minutes after the goal, Brandon Dubinsky fought Ryan Carter and left the game after injuring his hand. It was another sign of the Rangers being undisciplined; there was no need for Dubinsky to fight there, and now it may cost him down the line. (The team will update his status Wednesday.)
New York may have only trailed by two in shots (11-9), but it was lucky to go to the break only down one goal as the Devils thoroughly dominated the pace of the period.
The Rangers looked like a different team in the second period, as a run of slow starts followed up by kicking the effort up a notch in later periods continued. Carl Hagelin stole a puck from a Devils defender behind the night and passed it to Derek Stepan in point-blank range for a hight wrist shot on Martin Brodeur to tie the game. The Rangers finished the period outshooting New Jersey 14-7, and that was pretty indicative of the play. Brodeur had 25 saves.
However, the third period was an ugly one if you were a New York fan. David Clarkson scored his 26th goal when Petr Sykora's shot deflected off his leg. Ryan Carter then scored on the Devils' next shot via a Dan Girardi turnover to pretty much put the game out of reach just 4:21 into the period. Henrik Lundqvist finished the game with 23 saves.
The Rangers held the score at 3-1, and they had a chance to gain some momentum on a power play four minutes after the Devils' third goal. But the man advantage came up empty as New Jersey tightened up its defense (allowing only three shots all period) and Patrik Elias potted the empty-netter to put the nail in the Rangers' coffin.
The season series now sits 3-2 in favor of New Jersey, with the final game to be played at Madison Square Garden in mid-March. The win gave the Devils a 37-24-5 record and 79 points, 12 behind the Rangers, who have a 41-16-7 record on the year.
For more on the Devils, check out the SB Nation blog In Lou We Trust.