The New Jersey Devils blew a three-goal lead before recovering to beat the New York Rangers 5-3 on Wednesday, taking a 3-2 lead in their NHL Eastern Conference finals series.
The Devils, who led 3-0 before the first period was half over, can advance to face the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals with a win at home today. If the Rangers can stay alive, then Game 7 would be back in Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
The Devils seemed primed for an easy win when Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias scored within the first 4 minutes, 13 seconds of the game. Travis Zajac made it 3-0 before the Rangers woke up and began chipping away.
Brandon Prust brought New York within 3-1 before the first period was over and Ryan Callahan made it a one-goal game in the first minute of the second. The Garden really rocked when Marian Gaborik tied it 3-3 just 17 seconds into the third with his first goal of the series.
However, Ryan Carter restored the Devils’ lead and Zach Parise sealed it with an empty-net goal in the closing seconds.
Once Gaborik tied it with an unassisted goal that ricocheted in off the skate of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, it appeared that the Rangers would ride the comeback all the way to one of the most stirring wins in team history — one that would rival stirring victories over New Jersey in the 1994 East finals.
Carter made sure it would not happen.
Ilya Kovalchuk knocked Michael Del Zotto off the puck in the right corner, and Gionta sent a pass in front to Carter — who had just charged in front from the bench — for a quick shot that beat Henrik Lundqvist.
“You have to [keep it together] this time of year,” Gionta said. “You have to have a short memory. Fortunately we did and came out with the victory.”
New Jersey was outshot 28-17 overall and had only six shots in the third period, but two of them went in. Now the Devils are on the verge of their first Cup finals appearance since they won their third title in 2003.
The Rangers were ultimately done in by another terrible start. For the 13th straight game in these playoffs, the team that scored first in New York’s contests have gone on to win the game. The Rangers had been on a pattern of win-one, lose-one, but now they are on the verge of elimination with their second two-game losing streak in a series.