Weekes made 23 saves in regulation and overtime and then stopped three more shots in the shootout Saturday, lifting the New York Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Devils and a sweep of the two games.
Before New York’s 4-2 win Thursday night in New Jersey, Weekes sat out eight of nine games—first because of a groin strain and then because Henrik Lundqvist was playing too well to sit.
“It feels nice to be able to play the way you’re capable of playing,” said Weekes, still considered the No. 1 goalie by coach Tom Renney. “I have a great partner in Henrik and it’s really fun to be a part of.”
Gionta provided all of New Jersey’s offense with two second-period goals and he was the only one to beat Weekes in the NHL’s new tiebreaker. The 5-foot-7 sparkplug has four goals in a three-game scoring streak and leads the team with nine.
Petr Prucha scored New York’s first goal and then netted another to end the shootout and give the Rangers their fourth win in five.
Gionta kept the Devils alive by beating Weekes with a goal in the third round. Sudden death became necessary when Jaromir Jagr hit the post. Weekes then made a left skate save while on his stomach to stop Jamie Langenbrunner and keep it tied.
“I knew I had it, and then I heard the crowd start yelling so that’s always a good sign,” Weekes said. “They weren’t yelling at me they were yelling for us.”
“Last time I was in the shootout, the goalkeeper made a kick save so now I decided to try to get the puck between his legs,” Prucha said.
The Rangers 3-0-1 against their area rivals, have three wins in a season over the Devils for the first time since the Stanley Cup-winning year of 1993-94. They will meet four more times.
Jagr assisted on Prucha’s second-period, power-play goal, giving him a 12-game point streak. He has 12 goals and seven assists in the run.
“It’s great vision from him,” Prucha said. “I just hold my stick on the ice and shoot into an open net.”
Blair Betts got New York even at 2 with 9:52 remaining in regulation. Jason Ward’s centering pass from the goal line hit New Jersey’s Zach Parise. The puck caromed in front, where Jason Strudwick whacked at it. Betts found the rebound and smacked in his third goal.
Gionta put New Jersey in front 1-0 when he tipped in Sean Brown’s shot from the point 1:40 into the second period when the Devils had a two-man power play. Gionta has five power-play goals after netting only two before this season.
It was only 13th power-play goal allowed by the Rangers, who entered with the fourth-best penalty-killing unit in the NHL. New York has given up four goals when down 3-on-5.
Gionta struck again at 9:50. He let go with a long wrist shot that beat Weekes inside the post to make it 2-0.
Facing Weekes so much in a short span worked in Gionta’s favor in the rematch.
“You see what he does in certain situations and try to react off that,” Gionta said. “I tried a couple of things the other night and this time I tried something else.”
Clemmensen played for the fifth straight game. He is filling in for Martin Brodeur, who is bothered by a sore knee. Before Thursday, Brodeur was in net for 68 straight games against New York—56 in the regular season, dating to December 1993.
“It’s tough to win in this league,” Clemmensen said. “It was good to play them again … but we were disappointed again, although getting a point is good especially on the road.”
Clemmensen was forced to stand tall through three two-man disadvantages. He made 13 of his 35 saves in the third period when New York sustained its most pressure. Jagr had nine of his 10 shots after the first period.
There were five two-man power plays in the game, with all 13 penalties whistled within the first two periods.
The Rangers have scored at least one power-play goal in 13 of 15 games this season—going 7-3-3 in those contests. … Devils D Colin White returned to the lineup after missing eight games with a pulled groin. … Nylander got tangled up with White early in the second period and White fell on Nylander’s right leg. Nylander returned for his next shift, flexing his leg. He went down again, but returned shortly after. … Gionta has eight career two-goal games.