The New York Rangers’ surprising success against their area rivals this season is one of the main reasons they are even on the fringes of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Rangers will look to continue that trend when they take on the struggling New Jersey Devils in yet another critical opportunity to gain points.
The desperate Rangers broke a three-game losing streak Thursday night with yet another victory over the Islanders, earning a brawl-filled 6-2 victory at Madison Square Garden.
Mike Dunham made 30 saves, several in spectacular fashion, and six Rangers scored as they improved to 5-0 against the Islanders this season.
“We came out skating hard, we forechecked hard and created some scoring chances and took advantage of it,” Dunham said.
The Rangers played with energy and discipline, something they have rarely done consistently this season, before engaging their archrivals in a fight-marred third period.
Now the Rangers will attempt to carry that effort and emotion over to Saturday’s matinee matchup with the Devils, another area rival that they have managed to play to a 1-1-1 tie in the season series.
Prior to its three-game losing streak, New York’s last victory was a 3-1 win over New Jersey on Feb. 11. That win was only the Rangers’ third in the regular season (3-21-13) over New Jersey since 1997, and first in regulation against the Devils since March 31, 2001.
On Saturday, the Rangers hope to take advantage of a Devils club that has slumped in the last two weeks and has been unable to make up ground in the race for the Atlantic Division crown. New Jersey trails first-place Philadelphia by six points, and only the Flyers’ three straight losses have kept the Devils close.
New Jersey is in sixth place in the conference, only six points ahead of Montreal and the Islanders.
New Jersey fell to 2-4-1 in its last seven with a 3-1 defeat to the last-place Washington Capitals on Thursday night. Olaf Kolzig frustrated the Devils with 43 saves and the Caps won their first game without star forward Peter Bondra, traded to Ottawa on Wednesday.
“We can’t give away points like that,” said New Jersey forward Patrik Elias, who scored in the second period off a rebound. “We need every point.”
Brodeur, who has gone 2-3-1 in his last six games and allowed 18 goals, should be back in the net Saturday. He has posted a 1.97 goals-against average in the three games against the Rangers this season.