NEWARK, N.J. - Trailing two games to one, the New Jersey Devils needed to play with a sense of urgency in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference final series with the New York Rangers Monday night. It didn't take long to see that the Devils were ready to dominate their arch enemies in every facet of the game.
Zach Parise ended his recent scoring drought with two third-period goals, one a power play goal and the other an empty netter, and Bryce Salvador and Travis Zajac each scored a first-period goal, leading the Devils to a totally dominant 4-1 victory, evening their best-of-seven series with the Rangers at 2-2.
Game 5 is set for Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden and Game 6 will be played Friday night in Newark.
Legendary goalkeeper Martin Brodeur stopped 26 shots to earn the victory. He kept the Rangers off the scoreboard until Ruslan Fedotenko fired a low shot that eluded Brodeur with five minutes left.
The Devils came out flying from the outset with inspired play and never let the Rangers accomplish any semblance of an offense or a rhythm. The game got very ugly in the third period, when former Devil Mike Rupp threw a punch to the chest of Brodeur, after earning a four-minute roughing penalty, sending Rupp to the locker room for the remainder of the game. It included a jawing session over the boards between the two coaches, causing the sellout crowd at the Prudential Center to get into a complete frenzy.
After having stellar shutout performances in Games 1 and 3, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was a lot more pedestrian Monday night, allowing two of the three goals to sneak right through his pads.
Parise's power-play goal, his first of the series, came in the opening stages of the third period after Derek Stepan went off for high sticking. Just four seconds into the power play, Parise gathered the puck off a faceoff and slid it through Lundqvist's legs for the 3-0 lead.
Rangers coach John Tortorella pulled Lundqvist with 2:23 left and Parise scored with 1:29 left, with Salvador and Brodeur getting assists.
The Devils were quicker to the puck, displayed a ton of early pressure and kept the puck in New York's end most of the first period.
The Devils drew first blood midway through the first period, when Alexei Ponikarovsky skated around the back of the net, then pushed to the point to find defenseman Salvador, who did what he was supposed to do -- put the puck at Lundqvist with some traffic in front, caused by David Clarkson.
Salvador's shot might have clicked the skate of Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman, but it went right through Lundqvist's pads for a goal at 8:10 of the period.
It was Salvador's third goal of the playoffs after failing to score a single goal in the entire regular season.
The Devils didn't stop their intense play and scored again four minutes later. Parise got an awkward carom off the side boards and carried it in against Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who failed to make a solid defensive move on the play. With Zajac on his left in a 2-on-1, Parise drew Del Zotto toward him, then slid the puck across to Zajac, who blasted it past Lundqvist for his sixth goal of the playoffs and a 2-0 New Jersey lead at the 11:59 mark.
The Rangers had very few opportunities over the first 20 minutes, with Marian Gaborik's shot wide of Brodeur at 13:19 the lone real scoring chance. The Devils outshot the Rangers, 12-5, over the lopsided first period.
The Rangers played more spirited hockey in the second period and managed to put 13 shots on Brodeur, but none was a solid threat. Gaborik had the best chance, when his wrist shot was stopped by a sliding Brodeur with 10:29 left.
Stralman had a good chance to slice the lead in half in the closing minutes of the second period, but the puck slid wide of Brodeur while the net minder had lost his stick. The Devils held the 2-0 lead after two periods, which was good news for New Jersey, which brought a 5-0 playoff record into the game holding a lead after two.
The Devils held a 21-18 advantage in shots after the first two periods.
NOTES: The first fight of the series took place in the first period, when Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh hit Devils center Adam Henrique about four times with his stick, causing the Devils rookie to flip off the gloves. McDonagh slammed Henrique to the ice, but the pair received five minutes each for fighting...As expected, Devils coach Peter DeBoer benched veteran Petr Sykora in favor of Jacob Josefson, returning to action after missing all of the playoffs with a wrist injury. Rookie D Adam Larsson was scratched for a second straight game...No surprises in the Ranger lineup, as Brandon Dubinsky, who skated regularly the last two days, is still not ready to return to action...Ilya Kovalchuk and Ryan Callahan were engaged in a tussle in the second period, after Callahan knocked Kovalchuk to the ice and Kovy retaliated with a stick to Callahan's groin.