NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils outplayed the New York Rangers in almost every aspect in Game 3 of their fiercely intense Eastern Conference final series Saturday afternoon. The Devils owned more of the open ice, had more shots on goal and dominated the physical play.
They did everything other than score more goals than their cross-river rivals.
Dan Girardi scored a power-play goal at 3:18 of the third period to break a scoreless tie and rookie Chris Kreider continued his incredible playoff run with a goal two minutes later, giving the Rangers a 3-0 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 4 is scheduled for Monday night, also at the Prudential Center, at 8 p.m. ET.
Much like Game 1, Rangers goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist was masterful in net, making 36 saves, including several acrobatic ones.Five miraculous stops during a two-minute span of the third period proved once again that he is arguably the best net-minder in the NHL.
“I think the goalie was the difference,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “We generated opportunities. We had some really good looks. But the goalie was the difference. When you have a game like this, where you totally outplay the other team, and you don’t win, it’s a little frustrating. If we find a way to get one in the first two periods, maybe things are different.”
Lundqvist believed that his teammates would eventually score.
“We didn’t panic and that was the big thing,” Lundqvist said. “We had to get through the tough minutes and keep playing the same way. When you do, sooner or later, things are going to turn and you’ll get a break and get a goal.”
After two scoreless periods, the Rangers finally broke through, soon after Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador went to the penalty box for hooking. Just seconds after the penalty, Brad Richards won a faceoff and the puck went directly to Girardi, who scored on Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
They didn't stop there. Keeping the pressure on the Devils and Brodeur, Ryan McDonagh fired a shot that Kreider, the former Boston College standout, got a stick on to deflect past Brodeur for a 2-0 lead at 5:16 of the third period. It was Kreider's fifth goal of the playoffs. Before the playoffs, he was still playing in college at the NCAA Frozen Four, leading BC to the NCAA championship.
“Maybe when this is all over, I can think back at it,” Kreider said. “Right now I have to focus on the next game. I think it was more Ryan finding my stick than me tipping it in. It’s something we talked about before the game. I just had to get in front of the net and make a play.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella, who is usually sullen and standoffish with the media, was actually jovial and chatty post-game, especially when speaking about Kreider.
“The kid has a knack,” Tortorella said. “The puck follows him around. We really felt that he had the best chance to score a goal in the third period. It’s pretty exciting to see what he’s doing for a kid just out of college.”
The Devils could not figure out Lundqvist, who stonewalled them for his second shutout in the three games, including a slap shot from Ilya Kovalchuk with 11 minutes left that Lundqvist caught with his glove, causing Kovalchuk to simply shake his head in disgust.
The Devils had another golden opportunity with four minutes left on the power play, but defenseman Peter Harrold's shot from near the blue line clanked off the right post.
“We moved the puck well and had some good chances,” Devils forward Patrik Elias said. “We just didn’t finish. We have to find the back of the net. We had our chances when the game was scoreless.”
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan added an empty net goal with 2:13 left to cap the scoring.
In the first period, the Devils controlled action, had 11 shots on goal compared to just four for the Rangers, who went an astounding 15 minutes without getting a single shot on Brodeur.
Lundqvist made a stellar save with the blocking pad on Zach Parise with 14 seconds left, keeping the game scoreless.
The action picked up considerably in the second period, with the Devils once again controlling the play.
Kovalchuk had a breakaway opportunity in the first minute of the second period, but was stopped when Lundqvist came out of the crease to cut off the angle, then made a diving arm save to thwart the chance.
About a minute later, the Devils had three consecutive shots on Lundqvist, only to get turned aside. Dainius Zubrus had a slap shot from the point that Lundqvist stopped with his leg pad and Adam Henrique followed that shot with a wrist shot on the rebound that Lundqvist smothered.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Brodeur, who stopped 19 of 21 shots. “We played well. We had a bunch of chances. We just didn’t get it done. At times, we put some big-time pressure on them. I figured with as many chances as we had, we’d be able to score a few goals. It didn’t happen. But we’ll be fine. We have to keep on doing what we’ve been doing.”
NOTES: Although Devils coach Peter DeBoer said that C Jacob Josefson and D Henrik Tallinder were close to returning to action after injury, neither dressed Saturday. Rookie D Adam Larsson was a healthy scratch, as were Cam Janssen, Eric Boulton and Tim Sestito. ... The Rangers scratched D Stu Bickel, as well as the injured Brandon Dubinsky. ... DeBoer is pleased with the way rookie Henrique has developed. "You forget how young he is," DeBoer said. "In terms of his hockey sense and responsibility, he gets the job done. He's able to put the puck in the right place so much that you don't even think of his age anymore. He's comfortable now." ... Brodeur still marveled at the kick save he made against Marian Gaborik in Game 2, a flying kick save that someone dubbed "the Scorpion save." Brodeur said, "I didn't know I could still stretch that far at my age. It's definitely one of the best of my career."
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