Dunham, who has been under fire from coach Glen Sather in recent weeks for poor play, had 28 saves and the Rangers earned their first regulation win over the New Jersey Devils in almost three years, 3-1 Wednesday night.
“He looked composed. He was sharp,” Sather said. “He looked good. There’s a lot of pressure on him, but that’s the nature of the beast. He rose to the occasion.”
Dunham, 1-5 in his last six starts, allowing 21 goals, said the All-Star break gave him a chance to refocus.
“I just felt relaxed and calm out there,” Dunham said. “I didn’t want to go out there and try to do too much.”
That’s the kind of effort the Rangers will need to avoid missing the playoffs for the seventh straight year.
“I’m proud of him, proud of the way he played,” Mark Messier said of Dunham. “He’s been under fire the last few days. He came up with a big game for us. It was exactly what we needed.”
Defensemen Tom Poti and Boris Mironov scored first-period goals and Dan LaCouture scored on a second-period wraparound against Martin Brodeur. That gave the Rangers only their third regular-season win (3-21-13) over New Jersey since 1997.
The Rangers’ last regulation win was 4-3 here on March 31, 2001.
Turner Stevenson scored for the Devils, who lost their third straight, including two in as many nights since returning from the All-Star break. New Jersey has only two goals in its last three games.
“They were a different team tonight,” Devils center Scott Gomez said of the Rangers. “They’re in a worse situation than us, and Dunham responded. He was the difference.”
Dunham was at his best in the final two periods, when the Devils outshot New York 22-7. The former Devils goaltender stopped a half-dozen good chances.
“We had tons of chances, we outchanced them bigtime,” said Brodeur, who faced only 16 shots, including one in the third period. “They were hanging on. These guys gave us tons of chances to get back in the game. Our offense couldn’t get it done.’
Poti gave the Rangers the lead with a power-play slap shot from the point that Brodeur had trouble seeing with Bobby Holik parked in front.
The goal came with a second left on a penalty to Jamie Langenbrunner for goaltender interference. The penalty came on a play in which a Devils shot went into the net.
Mironov snapped a 29-game goal drought with less than a second left in the first period. Brodeur poked the poke off the stick of Jaromir Jagr in front, but it went right to Mironov for a shot that beat the buzzer.
LaCouture, who just came off the injured list (concussion), scored early in the second period, taking advantage of a turnover. He skated around the net and knocked Brodeur’s stick out of his hands in the process, leaving the net open for the wraparound.
Stevenson got the Devils’ goal by putting his own rebound past Dunham afterthe goaltender yielded a juicy second chance on a weak shot. ^Notes: The Devils were 0-for-3 on the power play and are 0-for-18 over the last five games. …Brodeur made his 63rd straight start against the Rangers, including playoffs. … Dunham is now 2-8-3 against his former teammates. … Rangers D Dale Purinton was called for all three penalties against New York. … The Rangers’ only other recent win against New Jersey was 4-3 in overtimeon Oct. 17, 2001.