Hockey is the rare sport that one team can thoroughly dominate the other and still fall short, case in point Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final. The ice was tilted in the New Jersey Devils' favor for the first two periods, the 26-14 shot advantage over the New York Rangers doesn't even do their advantage justice.
But when you have a goalie of Henrik Lundqvist's caliber, you can struggle for large portions of the game and still come out on top. The Rangers did just that, finding their game later in the second and capitalizing for two goals (the last one was an empty-netter) in the final frame for the 3-0 win and 2-1 series lead, as Lundqvist recorded his second shutout of the Devils in this series on 36 saves.
In Game 4 on Monday night at 8 p.m. EST at Prudential Center, the Devils hope to create the kind of chances they did in Game 3. Even though they've switched up their lines and split up Ilya Kovalchuk (now second line) and Zach Parise, moving Dainius Zubrus to the top line, New Jersey ultimately needs to find ways to cash in on those chances by finding more close-range opportunities and getting traffic in front. They've also got to convert on their power play opportunities; they didn't do that in five chances in Game 3 and are 1-for-12 in the entire series. The Devils have gotten great goaltending in this series, despite being on the short end in two games. Martin Brodeur has made a number of spectacular stops, he just hasn't been tested as much as his counterpart.
The Rangers, on the other hand, need to find their legs earlier in this contest to get their offense going, something they really haven't done much of in this series. They're very lucky that Lundqvist has been on his game or else this series' advantage could be leaning the other way. New York hopes that Ryan Callahan gets going again; he had the empty-netter in Game 3. Its best forward in the series has been rookie Chris Kreider, who has scored five times in the playoffs. Dan Girardi, typically the defensive stalwart, leads all blueliners in the playoffs in points with 11, and he has two game-winning goals in the Eastern Conference final. Ultimately, the blue collar club will rely on its defense and shot-blocking to get the job done, but it needs to generate more consistent offense early on in contests to seize the momentum of this entire series.
New York has not had a 3-1 series lead in any of these playoffs; the Devils have also not been down by that margin, either.
Brandon Prust will sit this one out, receiving a one-game ban for his elbow to the back of Anton Volchenkov's head in the second period. Brandon Dubinsky (foot injury) resumed skating with the team Sunday, but it's unclear if he'll be ready, meaning the Blueshirts could go with Steve Eminger or Stu Bickel as a forward on the fourth line, something they've done a few times this season.