David Clarkson’s deflected goal early in the third period stood as the winner as the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Wednesday to even the NHL Eastern Conference finals at 1-1.
Ryan Carter and Ilya Kovalchuk also scored for the Devils, while defenseman Bryce Salvador added two assists and Martin Brodeur stopped 23 shots.
“We had to keep going to the net, and we were doing some good things,” Clarkson said. “We’ve been playing some good hockey and we’ve got to continue to do it. That is a big win for us.”
Marc Staal and rookie Chris Kreider scored in the second for the Rangers. Top-seeded New York, who had 24 saves by Henrik Lundqvist, have not had a two-game lead at any point in this post-season.
Game 3 will be tomorrow in New Jersey.
The Devils got their elusive first goal of the series late in the first period.
After Brian Boyle was sent off for slashing Zach Parise, the Devils controlled the puck at the Rangers’ end through the powerplay.
Marek Zidlicky curled with the puck to the center of the blue line and slid a pass down to the left circle to Kovalchuk, who calmly and patiently drifted in and snapped a shot up and under the crossbar for his sixth goal of the playoffs and fourth on a power play.
After spending much of the first penned in their own end, the Rangers managed to not only equalize, but go ahead, thanks to their previously inept power play.
With Alexei Ponikarovsky off for interference, Staal fired a shot that sailed wide of the net and struck the back boards before popping back in front and pinballing into the net off Salvador and Brodeur at 2 minutes, 23 seconds. The goal was originally credited to Derek Stepan, but the puck managed to miss him both on the way toward the net and on the bounce back.
Staal nearly netted another moments later when he ripped a drive that Brodeur had to lunge fully to his left to snare with his glove.
Kreider scored for the second straight game to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 12:19. Anton Stralman let go a shot from above the right circle that ticked Kreider’s stick and fluttered past Brodeur.
Late in the second, New Jersey got even at 2-2 when Salvador wound up for a shot at the blue line and fired a drive that Carter — with his back to the net — brilliantly deflected past Lundqvist. Marian Gaborik perhaps should have done better in trying to block the shot, and he was benched, even during New York’s power play in the third.
The Devils kept the pressure on the Rangers at the start of the third and were soon rewarded with Clarkson’s winner, as he tipped in an Adam Henrique shot.
Clarkson has three goals in this post-season, and every one has been a winner, including the clincher against Philadelphia in Game 5 of the second round.
“Mr Clutch? I don’t know about that,” Clarkson said. “I’m going to skate up and down, and finish the checks and just bounce off people. It’s just a great feeling to be able to contribute. To get a tip on that felt pretty good.”