May 23, 2012
Devils a home win away
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI AGENCY
NEW YORK - In the end, it didn’t matter if they blew a three-goal lead or if their future hall of fame goaltender played like retirement time may be closing in.
In the end, the New Jersey Devils are one win away from the Stanley Cup final and feel no need to apologize for a Wednesday night heist at Madison Square Garden.
In sneaking out of Manhattan with a 5-3 win, the Devils are a home victory away from finishing off the Rangers in six games and making it a New Jersey-L.A. final rather than the sexier New York-L.A. matchup that the league and TV executives might prefer.
“We stole this one,” said winger Patrik Elias of what might have been both the Devils biggest win and poorest effort of the playoffs. “We cannot steal those games too many times. We’ll take it, we’ll move on, but we’ve got to be better.”
Ryan Carter’s goal at 15:36 of the third period ended a wild night at the Garden that saw the Devils almost bury the Rangers in the opening 9:49 as they beat an ordinary looking Blueshirts' goaltender Henrik Lundqvist three times.
Good thing too. The rest of the game, the forecheck and hustle that had given them a decided edge in the series disappeared and the Rangers found life.
Goals in the first 30 seconds of both the second and third periods had the scored tied at three and set up a wild final period in which both teams played as though it was overtime as the officials put away their whistles.
But once the score was tied, the Devils played their best hockey of the night and it finally paid off with Carter’s game winner.
“We’ve had leads and lost them, we’ve been behind and come back,” Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’ve seen just about every situation you can be in and so I don’t think we’re uncomfortable. I didn’t feel any panic on the bench. I thought we started to actually push back a little bit and found a way to get one.”
The best push came from the fourth line that included Carter and Stephen Gionta, who opened the scodring 2:43 into the game and got the assist on Carter’s game winner.
But the play was set up by a great forechecking move by Ilya Kovalchuk who forced a turnover deep in Rangers territory allowing Gionta to make a perfect pass that Carter simply redirected in.
For the smallest player on the ice, it was a huge play by Gionta.
“I can’t really explain it in words,” Gionta said. “We’re still going after our ultimate goal and there’s still a lot of hockey left. You can’t get too far ahead of yourself.”
The Rangers have shown their own ability to bounce back, of course, finding the opportune time for big goals or wins in both of their first two series wins over Ottawa and Washington respectively.
But after a huge effort and 19 playoff games already, they’ll have to find a way to do it one more time Friday night at the Prudential Center where the Devils will be looking for blood.
Despite the early lead on goals from Gionta, Elias and Travis Zajac, the Devils looked nowhere near as sharp as they did in Game 4.
The Rangers got their first breath at 15:41 of the first on a Brandon Prust breakaway goal and then captain Ryan Callahan got it to within one in the first minute of the second on a goal that needed a video review after he appeared to kick the puck in.
The Garden was in full roar early in the third when Marian Gaborik scored on a play that was clearly mishandled by Brodeur. But if the Devils needed a wakeup call, they got it then and played with the desperation they needed the rest of the way.
“Up until then, it was probably the longest stretch of the playoffs that we haven’t been sharp and that we didn’t forecheck properly,” captain Zach Parise said. “It wasn’t our best game but we snuck out with a win.
“It’s hard to regroup when you blow a three-goal lead but we just kept moving forward.”
And the faster forward the better given the Western Conference champion Kings are already resting for the final, which is scheduled to begin either here or in Newark next Wednesday.
“It feels pretty good, but one win, 10 wins or 12 wins away, it doesn’t really matter,” Carter said. “We’re a confident group and we know that if we play our game, we’ve got a chance to win no matter what sheet of ice we’re on.”
To a man, the New York Rangers needed that to get the upper hand on the Devils, a strong start was a necessity.
So imagine the shock when they tumbled into a 3-0 hole before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final was half a period old.
“We were just trying to fight back, trying to stop the bleeding at that point,” said Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. “Obviously it wasn’t the start we wanted.”
No, when your all-star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist gives up three goals on the first five shots he faces, it most definitely is not.
After their third goal, the Devils managed just three shots in the next period and a half as the Rangers fought back. But the damage, ultimately, was done.
“We’ve just got to win one road game,” Callahan said. “We’ve been in this situation in the Ottawa series and we’ve been good on the road all year.”
Rangers coach, John Tortorella, felt the losing effort was his team’s best of the series, a mindset he’ll attempt to drill into his players before Friday night.
“I have tremendous amount of confidence in how we’ll react to this,” Tortorella said. “We lose, we move on. We get ready for our next one.”