NEWARK, N.J. -- Tuesday night, it felt as if there was almost a carryover from last May, when the New Jersey Devils steamrolled past the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final series in six games.
"Any time you play well against the Rangers, it's a good feeling," said Devils forward David Clarkson, who continued his torrid start in the new season with two goals and an assist, leading the Devils to a 3-1 victory over their archrival Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.
"We did a lot of good things tonight," said Clarkson, who now has seven goals on the season. "We got off to a good start and we gained some confidence with that. I'm getting opportunities to score by being in the right places."
Patrik Elias added three assists for the Devils (5-1-3). Adam Henrique, who eliminated the New York Rangers with a goal in overtime of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals last May, scored his second goal of the season.
Martin Brodeur stopped 24 shots to secure the fourth win of the season and the 660th win of his storied career.
"You could feel the atmosphere," Brodeur said. "It was a playoff atmosphere. It's always nice to play well against them. It was a fun game. We handled it well emotionally. We were definitely up for the challenge. Every game means something this year, so this was huge."
It was the first of four meetings between the two rivals this season.
Chris Kreider scored a goal for the Rangers (4-5-0). Henrik Lundqvist made18 saves in net for New York, but he was pulled from goal to give the Rangers an extra skater with two minutes left to no avail.
"To be a top team in this league, you have to do better than this," Lundqvist said. "It's not about damage control. It's just about being consistent. It hasn't happened yet. We have to push ourselves to get to that level of consistency."
The Devils totally controlled play in the first period and came away with a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes.
The Devils were first on the board exactly at the 5:00 mark, when Henrique made a great hustle play, sticking with the puck after receiving a pass from Elias. He fired a wrist shot past Lundqvist for his second goal of the season in just his fourth game, giving New Jersey the 1-0 lead. Elias and Clarkson were credited with assists on the goal.
"That was a real tough play," Lundqvist said. "We should have been able to clear it there."
The Devils also survived a major scare midway through the first period, when defenseman Andy Greene's stick caught Carl Hagelin above the eye, drawing a four-minute high-sticking penalty.
"It's huge to kill off penalties early like that," Brodeur said. "It gets everyone into the game, but you don't want to play that way."
The Rangers' lone chance in the power play came when Marc Staal fired a bouncing puck that Brodeur managed to save, leaving Staal shaking his head in disbelief. New Jersey, the NHL's top penalty killing unit a year ago, killed off the four-minute double minor.
"We were the better team five-on-five," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said. "It's the special teams that let us down. It's been a struggle so far and it hurt us again tonight. I thought we gave them two free ones early. I thought we played well, but you need a goal on the power play to get going. We needed a goal at the key times and didn't get it."
The Devils then increased the lead in the final minute, when an alert Clarkson secured the puck from Hagelin and fired it past Lundqvist with just 53 seconds remaining. It was Clarkson's sixth goal of the season, with Elias getting his second assist of the game.
The Rangers played with more of a sense of urgency in the second period, getting more of the scoring chances, but had nothing to show for it. The Rangers' best scoring chance came from rookie J.T. Miller, playing in his first NHL game. Miller's backhand attempt midway through the period seemed to handcuff Brodeur a little, but he slapped the shot aside, keeping the Rangers at bay.
Marian Gaborik, who started the period by sliding the puck across the crease behind Brodeur, almost sliced the lead in half with 1:54 left in the period with a wrist shot that Brodeur smothered.
The Devils took the 2-0 lead into the third period.
Jacob Josefson had a great scoring chance in the opening stages of the third period, but his breakaway chance was stopped by Lundqvist.
Clarkson got his second goal of the game on a power play goal came after Arron Asham was whistled for hooking.
The Rangers got on the board with 13 minutes left, when Kreider fired a slap shot past Brodeur and right under the crossbar. It was Kreider's first goal of the season. He missed the last five games with a bone chip in his ankle.
The Rangers had a golden opportunity with seven minutes left, when Rick Nash skated in, found a streaking Hagelin, but Brodeur made a patented butterfly save, his best of the game, to keep the score at 3-1.
"It looked tougher than it was," Brodeur said. "It was bouncing around and he (Hagelin) was able to get it on net, but I got it standing up."
NOTES: Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who had been playing well of late and actually scored a goal in the Devils' 5-4 overtime loss to the Islanders last week, was a healthy scratch, as was rookie wing Stefan Matteau. Tallinder was surprised with DeBoer's decision to bench him, but he understood. ... The Devils announced that they would honor long-time goaltending coach Jacques Caron prior to their home game March 16 against the Montreal Canadiens. Caron is being rewarded for his 20-plus years of dedication to the franchise. ... The Rangers scratched defenseman Dan Girardi, who has been the workhorse of the team for the last three years. Girardi has an undisclosed injury "that required maintenance," according to a team release. ... Rangers coach Tortorella, who obviously has no love lost for the Devils and their head coach Peter DeBoer, didn't hype the first meeting between the two enemy rivals since last year's conference finals. "This is just another game for us and we're still trying to get consistent with our game," Tortorella said before the game. "I don't care who we're playing." ... The game marked the NHL debut for highly-touted Rangers rookie center Miller, who was the team's top draft pick in the 2011 NHL draft.