NEWARK, N.J. (AP)—With the final seconds ticking off the clock in regulation, the New Jersey Devils stood on the bench and started congratulating one another.
It didn’t make a difference that there was an overtime to play and that the New York Rangers would still be on a power play. The Devils accomplished their primary mission on Sunday. The got home-ice advantage for the first-round playoff series against their longtime New York area rivals.
The Devils got the other half of the job done minutes later, beating the Rangers for the first time this season with a 3-2 shootout win that gave them some momentum heading into the playoffs.
“It was important to get home ice, but it was just as important to get the win, if not just for our own psyche,” Devils veteran Jay Pandolfo said. “They beat us seven times and to find a way to get a win against them is huge. They’ve all been tight games and I think it’s going to continue that way in the playoffs.”
This eighth meeting on the final day of the regular season was no different. It was entertaining, and even had the oddity of the Rangers pulling goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for the final 65 seconds of regulation with the game tied 2-all.
New York had to win in regulation to pass the Devils for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and coach Tom Renney did everything necessary to do that, even though his team came up short.
“It was a little weird to go back,” Lundqvist said. “It felt like we almost could’ve gone to the locker room. But you try to go for the eighth straight win there, so that was something we wanted to play for.”
The playoff series, which will be the fifth between the Devils and Rangers, will start with games at the Prudential Center on Wednesday and Friday.
“It’s not going to be easy for anybody,” said Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr, who tied the game early in the third period with his 25th goal. “Not only today, but every game we played it was pretty tight. Most of the games were decided by one goal or went to overtime. I don’t expect anything else in the playoffs.”
The last time the teams met in the playoffs was 2006. The Devils swept New York in the first round.
“It makes it more fun,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said of the playoff matchup. “It definitely makes it more stressful for both teams.”
The Rangers, who trailed 2-0 early, actually came close to sweeping the eight-game season series when former Devil Scott Gomez slid a puck under Martin Brodeur to give New York a 1-0 lead in the third round of the shootout.
Parise, who missed two glorious chances to win the game in the third period, lifted a backhander over Lundqvist’s glove to force the fourth round.
Fredrik Sjostrom lost control on the puck on the Rangers’ chance and Elias then won the game.
“I think there is a clean slate going in,” Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan said. “Both teams could come out of this game and claim that they managed to get something good. From their standpoint, it’s a win—albeit in a shootout, but it’s a win. From our standpoint, we were down two goals and were able to tie it up.”
Down 2-0 after a dreadful opening period, the Rangers tied the game on goals by Drury and Jagr early in the second and third periods, respectively.
Jagr’s goal extended his NHL-record for consecutive 25-goal seasons to 17. His streak of 15 straight 30-goal seasons, which tied Mike Gartner for the league record, ended.
Drury needed only 19 seconds to get the Rangers back into the game in the second period, beating Brodeur with a shot from the left circle with the Rangers’ third shot of the game.
Jagr, whose 25 goals are a career low, tied the game at 4:46 of the third period on a nice setup from behind the net by Sean Avery.
The Devils, who scored seven goals in losing the first seven games against the Rangers this season, got two in the opening 12:57.
Madden put in his own rebound at 4:26 on a play that New York’s Marek Malik got caught a little out of position.
Coming in alone on the left wing, Rupp doubled the lead with a hard shot from the circle. Lundqvist probably should have stopped it.
Rangers fourth-line C Blair Betts returned to the lineup after missing seven games because of foot surgery. … Paul Mara was a healthy scratch so Malik could get back into the lineup. … The Rangers two first-period shots were not a season-low. They had one against Montreal on Dec. 30.