When Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur square off, both the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils can bet on low-scoring affairs.
But the Devils couldn't expect it to be this low scoring.
Lundqvist stopped a season-high 43 shots as the Rangers defeated the Devils, 3-1, Wednesday at the Prudential Center.
New Jersey's woeful offense, last in the league in goals scored, continue to struggle tonight. The Devils have scored one goal in each of their last six games, all losses.
Despite their offensive ineptitude, the Devils found themselves on the right side of a 1-0 lead at 6:31 of the first period. After stopping a flurry of shots, Travis Zajac swept a rebound past Lundqvist for his fifth goal of the season.
It was the first time in five games the Devils scored the first goal of a game.
The lead would be short lived. Brian Boyle scored 47 seconds later to tie the game, 1-1. Ruslan Fedetenko carried the puck into the Devils' zone and found Boyle in the left circle. The Rangers' center snapped a shot that hit the bottom of Martin Brodeur's glove and into the net for his 14th goal of the season.
Brodeur wasn't sure how Boyle's shot got past him.
"It wasn't that hard, but it was a quick shot," Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. "He got it close to his skate and he just let it go and he caught me moving because he released it so quick and it just hit the bottom of my glove."
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire blamed the defense for the goal.
"To me, it's just a bad play there," Lemaire said to Gulitti. "I think the defenseman was out and we didn't put pressure on the puck carrier. That's a thing that you just can't do. The guy is 20-25 feet in front of the net, you've got to put pressure on him. You can't let him shoot and hope that he's going to miss the net."
A fluke goal put the Rangers ahead for good in the second period.
Michal Rozsival's third goal of the season at 13:22 put the Rangers ahead, 2-1. Rozsival snapped a shot from the right circle that looked to be wide. But the puck hit Devils' defenseman Andy Greene and snuck past Brodeur.
"I saw the play developing and it's kind of one of those things where I try to get into the shot lane and it just went off my glove and right in," Greene told Gulitti. "I'm pretty sure it was going wide. That's the way it goes."
Brodeur had no explanation for the goal.
"Par for the course for us this year," Brodeur said to Gulitti. "Just another bad bounce to beat us or to change the momentum of a game anyway. It's been like that all year."
Lundqvist and the Rangers killed three straight penalties in the third period to preserve the one-goal lead. Lundqvist got some help from the crossbar, as Jason Arnott rang a shot off the pipe with 2:18 left in regulation.
"I had to rush it," Arnott told Gulitti. "It just went off the crossbar. That's the way things are going right now."
Brandon Dubinsky added an empty-net goal with six seconds left to ice the victory.
Once again, the Devils were left searching for positives after a loss.
"I think that we played more intense definitely, more intense than we've been doing," Lemaire said to Gulitti. "We had a little down in the second period for six minutes there that we stopped a little bit because we had long shifts. When you do have long shifts, what do you do? You pace yourself. But besides that I thought the guys responded well. They played hard."
"I think we just wanted to play well, be competitive for a game," Zajac said to Gulitti. "I think the last couple of games we've been blown out and I think today for the most part we controlled the game. We made plays. We did a lot of good things. I don't know if it was because we were playing the Rangers, but our energy level was a lot better today."
The performance against the Devils is nothing new for Lundqvist. The Rangers goalie is 21-7-0-5 with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage against his cross-river rivals.
The Devils loss was their sixth straight and 11th in their last 12 games.
Dainius Zubrus, who rarely fights, took on Brian Boyle in the second period...Since the start of the 2007-08 season, the Devils have lost 20 of 28 meetings against the Rangers. They're 0-3-0 this season...The Rangers won for their fifth time in seven games...Vladimir Zharkov made his season debut for the Devils, replacing waived left-winger Brian Rolston.