In yet another must win game, the New Jersey Devils stepped up and dominated their opponent.
New Jersey scored four goals en route to a 4-1 win over the rival New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight at the Prudential Center. The win ties the series, 2-2, with Game 5 Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Devils controlled play from the beginning, beating Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist twice in the first period. They got another by him in the third, making it the second time in the series New Jersey has scored at least three goals. Zach Parise led all scorers, recording three points (2g, 1a). Martin Brodeur turned away 28 of 29 shots, and even made postseason history.
New Jersey will look to take their first lead in the series Wednesday. Here's what went right and what went wrong in their Game 5 win:
Maybe it's redundant by now, but Martin Brodeur is playing some fantastic hockey. He turned away several quality scoring chances tonight. He lost his shutout bid on a soft goal by Ruslan Fedetenko, but was there time and time again to deny the Rangers scorers. There was his snag of a Marian Gaborik wrist shot in the second period, keeping New York off the board. Then, with under three minutes left in the final period, Brodeur made a twisting save on Carl Hagelin's attempt near the crease, brushing the puck onto the top of the net and out of harm's way.
Brodeur also showed composure outside of making extraordinary saves. With New York down, 3-0, in the third period, Rangers coach John Tortorella sent out Mike Rupp. He ran around the Devils defensive zone, crashing into Peter Harrold and eventually drawing a penalty. After the whistle was blown, he skated to the front of the net, and punched Brodeur in the chest. The "sucker punch," as Brodeur called it, led to a major skirmish and three players getting misconducts. Brodeur calmly took the punch, and didn't retaliate. In the playoffs, where his head coach has preached discipline, the Devils goalie embodied it.
He also set yet another record tonight. Brodeur, credited for an assist on Parise's empty-net goal, has four assists this postseason. That is a single season high.
It only took him four games, but Parise found a way to make his presence felt tonight. The Devils captain had countless opportunities, and always seemed to make the right play. He started the 2-on-1 break, eventually feeding Travis Zajac for New Jersey's second goal of the first period. In the third period he found the back of the net, going to the front of the net on the powerplay and stashing a rebound between the legs of Lundqvist for a goal. He'd add an empty-net tally later in the period to seal the victory. In just under 19 minutes of ice time, Parise finished with three points and five shots. His line combined for five points, and scored two of the three goals.
Sometimes you're good, and sometimes you're lucky. Bryce Salvador is a little bit of both in these playoffs. In 15 games, he has nine points, matching his total from the regular season. His first period goal - his third of the postseason - gave New Jersey an early lead and helped them take control early. Salvador was an unfortunate victim of some unlucky bounces earlier in the series, but he's been one of the best defenders all season long. Sometimes a team gets unexpected contributions from places in the lineup. The Devils can count on Salvador to play solid defensively. They'll take the offense he's producing as well.
Peter DeBoer and staff
The Devils get shut out in Game 3, and DeBoer makes changes to his lineup. On the outside, it was seen as a panic move. For DeBoer and company, it was pushing the right buttons. Rookie Jacob Josefson played well in his postseason debut, anchoring an effective energy unit for New Jersey. The Devils dominated for most of the game, and his new line combinations worked to perfection. When Rupp went after Brodeur in the third period, DeBoer defended his players, walking over to the bench to yell at Tortorella. DeBoer has given the Devils a gameplan of success, and for most of this series New Jersey has executed better than New York. When it fails, DeBoer and his staff make the necessary changes. Credit DeBoer and company for putting together a gameplan that has stymied and frustrated the Rangers.
The Devils Fans
The Devils attendance is a running joke during the regular season. When the Rangers come into town, their fans always show strong support. But in the two home games, the crowd was loud, and the Rock continued to be a tough place for opponents to play. Fans responded to each goal by loudly chanting "Henrik, Henrik," and a "Marty's Better" chant even came through in the third period. MSG will always be an absolutely fantastic sports atmosphere. But Devils fans made a statement during the two games, and showed that there is support for the team.
Granted, many of the Devils opportunities came when they were already ahead 3-0, but the powerplay failed to once again generate much offense. Parise's goal notwithstanding, the Devils couldn't really find those soft areas of the Rangers defense. They move the puck well along the outside, but New York continued to do a good job of shutting down the shooting lanes and blocking shots. When it was all said and done, New Jersey was just 1-for-6 with the man advantage. Those numbers need to improve.
Ilya Kovalchuk's Spear
The Devils preach discipline, and Brodeur served as an example of what the coaching staff wants to see. Kovalchuk serves as an example of what not to do. Down on the ice in the second period, Kovalchuk responded to a Ryan Callahan face-wash by spearing him with his stick. Both players were sent off, but it showed a rare moment when a Devils forward wasn't disciplined. The Devils can't get dragged into post-whistle scrums, and this was one slip-up that should have been avoided.