Rangers grab series lead over Devils

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist makes a save against the New Jersey Devils during the...

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist makes a save against the New Jersey Devils during the second period in Game 3 of their NHL Eastern Conference Final hockey playoff game in Newark, New Jersey, May 19, 2012. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

Lance Hornby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:17 AM ET

NEWARK - ‘King’ Henrik Lundqvist ruled the hockey realm in New Jersey, at least for an afternoon.

But if the Devils want to prevent Lundqvist and the New York Rangers from a berth to the Stanley Cup final, they’ll need to solve the Swede and raise some hell on home ice.

New Jersey did neither in Saturday's 3-0 loss to New York, and the Rangers now lead the Eastern Conference final 2-1.

It was a much-hyped game where the Devils were supposed to dictate the play at the Prudential Center. Instead, it turned into a squandered opportunity to get the Rangers and their fans out of the comfort zone they’ve enjoyed this post-season.

The day belonged to Lundqvist (36 saves, two on top gun Ilya Kovalchuk), his penalty killers (5-for-5) and New York's physical play (24 hits to 15, capped by Brandon Prust’s wicked elbow on Anton Volchenkov that will be reviewed by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan).

Once more, the Rangers blocked about three times as many pucks as their opponents, picked up scoring from its defence (Dan Girardi’s third game-winner of the playoffs) and a got a fifth goal from previous unknown Chris Kreider.

But it kept coming back to Lundqvist, who posted his sixth career post-season shutout.

“Henrik ... that’s a bit of who we are, how he does compete,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “I’m not sure how far we go, but it’s a team that stays with it.”

Lundqvist twice robbed Kovalchuk, once with an out-stretched glove when Lundqvist was lured from his den and successfully deked.

“That’s not the way I like to make a save,” Lundqvist admonished himself. “I was lucky he didn’t roof it. I made the first move a couple of times and still ended up making the save. You need some luck sometimes. I’m happy we won, but on Monday (Game 4 back here), it doesn’t matter anymore.”

Lundqvist saluted not only his shot blockers -- eight pucks were absorbed by Ryan McDonagh alone -- but all New York skaters for sticking closer to the Devils in the Rangers zone, disrupting the deflections that keyed Jersey’s 3-2 win in Game 2.

All three Rangers goals came in the third period.

Girardi scored a power-play goal at 3:19, beating Devils goalie Martin Brodeur on the blocker side.

With the crowd silenced, save for the Rangers fans who braved crossing the Hudson River, Chris Kreider applied the dagger.

Two minutes after the Girardi goal, New York's Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh conspired to get the puck on net where Kreider happened to be passing through for a tip.

Callahan added an empty netter later in the period.

Devils coach Peter DeBoer was measured in his praise of Rangers except when it came to Lundqvist.

“It’s easy to look under a microscope and say, ‘oh boy.' (The Rangers) played two great shifts and that was the difference,” DeBoer said. “We strung together six or seven great shifts. I mean, two breakaways, two 2-on-1s. We’ve got to find a way to score.”

On the power play, Kovalchuk played well at the point and the one-timers were teed up for the right people, but too many Devils fanned, snapped sticks or were foiled by Lundqvist. New Jersey had been second in home power-play rankings in playoffs.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of little things we can fix, but (Lundqvist) was the difference,” DeBoer said. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself, you have to move on.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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