New York’s playoff prospects were already a long shot before they kicked off a six-game trip Wednesday night that will ultimately determine if they reach the postseason. The Rangers shook off three one-goal deficits—the final one with 16.5 seconds remaining—and then edged the Devils in the shootout for a 4-3 victory.
“We can’t let up because of the situation we’re in,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said after New York’s second win in two nights.
Chris Drury(notes) scored that final tying goal in the dying seconds of regulation and Erik Christensen(notes) had the only tally in the shootout—beating Martin Brodeur(notes) on the first attempt in the tiebreaker.
“Chris Drury is known for scoring big goals. He delivered again,” said Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner(notes), Drury’s teammate on the U.S. Olympic team. “He put himself in a good spot and the puck got there.”
Henrik Lundqvist(notes) made Christensen’s goal stand up with saves against Zach Parise(notes), Patrik Elias(notes) and Travis Zajac(notes). The Rangers, 10th in the Eastern Conference moved within three points of eighth-place Boston and five behind No. 7 Philadelphia.
“There is no sense of feeling the pressure here,” Tortorella said. “You lose a couple of games with so few left, you’re done. You have to just go out and play.”
Lundqvist became the first NHL goalie to earn 30 wins in each of his first five seasons and the first Rangers netminder to post five straight 30-win campaigns.
Jamie Langenbrunner and Elias both scored tiebreaking goals in the third for the Devils, who regained first place in the Atlantic Division over Pittsburgh based on a tiebreaker.
Drury, regarded as one of the NHL’s most clutch players, tied it for a third time after he won a faceoff following a Rangers timeout. Christensen sent a blind, backhanded pass from the end boards in front to Drury, who slammed in his 12th goal of the season from the front edge of the crease.
“The big key is getting back behind the net,” Drury said. “It was a heck of a play by Erik.”
Langenbrunner put the Devils ahead for a third time when after a bad Rangers line change the New Jersey captain ripped a drive past Lundqvist with 7:23 left. Elias, who seconds earlier was stopped on a breakaway, made it 2-1 early in the period.
“Lundqvist made a big difference,” Parise said. “We outplayed them, outchanced them. A lot of good things came out of it.”
New Jersey is tied in points with Pittsburgh, but is atop the division with one more win than the Penguins. The Devils, who also got a goal from Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), have nine games remaining. Pittsburgh has eight left.
Brodeur made 28 saves for the Devils, who would have earned a playoff berth with a win.
“It’s disappointing,” Brodeur said. “We had the lead late in the game and blew it. It’s something that’s tough to digest, especially at this time of the year. These are the games that get you ready for the playoffs. We’ve got to be better than that.”
Christensen won it in the shootout with a shot that hit the left post, struck the bar inside the net and then bounded out. The goal was confirmed by video replay.
“I didn’t see it,” Brodeur said. “It hit the post and I heard the other post and I felt it go on my back. I tried to make sure I didn’t knock it in. The linesman knew right away that it went in.”
The Rangers, outshot 8-4 in the opening 20 minutes, were fortunate to escape the period down only 1-0. New Jersey came out with lots of jump against New York, which earned a 5-0 win on Wednesday night over the rival Islanders, and grabbed the lead 5:31 in on Kovalchuk’s 38th goal.
The Rangers played a much stronger second period, increasing their forechecking pressure in the New Jersey zone.
“We just wanted to get through the neutral zone a lot better,” Drury said. “No matter how many times we talk about, they just trap you into trouble.”
New York tied it on its first power-play chance.
Dubinsky took a return pass from defenseman Michael Del Zotto(notes) in the left circle and snapped a shot through traffic that beat Brodeur at 7:32 of the second. It was the Rangers’ 10th power-play goal in 10 games.
NOTES: Rangers RW Ryan Callahan(notes) limped off early in the second period after aggravating a left leg injury sustained Sunday at Boston. He returned for one brief shift, but then missed the rest of the game. … Elias has five points— one goal, four assists—in his past two games.