NEW YORK -- Seventeen seconds into the third period Wednesday night, the Madison Square Garden crowd was taunting New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with its ubiquitous singsong chant after a rare miscue allowed the New York Rangers to tie a game they once trailed 3-0.
Then, Ryan Carter gave Devils fans something to sing about.
Carter one-timed a Stephen Gionta feed past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with 4:24 remaining to restore New Jersey's lead and lift the Devils to a 5-3 win.
New Jersey took a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals, and it will have a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup finals with a win Friday night in Newark.
"I think giving up a three-goal lead and coming back and winning the game late shows a lot," Brodeur said. "I thought we stayed composed even though we had a few bad breaks. We didn't play our best game, but we got a win."
Brodeur's miscue came when he tried to play the puck in the opening minute of the third period, but it wound up on the stick of Rangers forward Marian Gaborik, who quickly put the puck on net. Brodeur had trouble handling the shot, and as he looked to secure the puck, he wound up knocking it into his own net. That set up a tense struggle for the go-ahead goal, with a sense that the best-of-seven series could turn on the next tally.
There was a frightening moment for the Rangers with 11:36 remaining, as Brad Richards inadvertently put the puck on his own goal while trying to play it back behind the net. Lundqvist, however, was right where he needed to be, making what might have been his most important "save" of the season.
There was no save, however, when Carter set up on Lundqvist's stick side, and Carter put the Devils up for good. The Rangers tried to press for another equalizer after that, but the only further scoring was a Zach Parise empty-netter with 32 seconds remaining.
The Devils took a 1-0 lead 2:43 into the game on a goal by Gionta. The diminutive winger got to the front of the net and cleaned up on a rebound by defenseman Mark Fayne, poking it past Rangers goaltender Lundqvist for his third goal of the playoffs.
"Our whole fourth line, I thought they were the story tonight," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "Gionta gets a goal, Carter gets a goal, (Steve Bernier) gave us some big minutes. They really have given us momentum throughout the playoffs, and that's playoff hockey. There's always unsung heroes and guys that step up this time of year, and we've got a bunch of them."
The Devils doubled their lead just 90 seconds later on the fourth goal of the playoffs by Patrik Elias. Elias was in front of the net for a deflection on Adam Henrique's point shot, but it was Rangers center Artem Anisimov who last touched the puck, as it bounced off of his leg and back into the net, prompting Rangers coach John Tortorella to use his timeout.
"We had a tough start," Tortorella said. "Puck luck for them a little bit on a couple of them, but I thought we probably played our best game of the series tonight."
The Devils' lead became 3-0 near the midway point of the first period on the seventh goal of the playoffs by Travis Zajac. Zajac kept the puck on a rush and fired a wrist shot past Lundqvist.
The Rangers got on the board with 4:19 remaining in the first period on the first goal of the playoffs by Brandon Prust. Derek Stepan got in the way of an attempted dump-in by Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky, and Ruslan Fedotenko chipped the puck ahead for Prust, who skated in on Brodeur and knocked the puck past the goalie.
The Rangers built momentum early in the second when team captain Ryan Callahan scored just 32 seconds into the frame. Callahan was crashing the net as Anisimov fired the puck in from the left wing boards, and the puck bounced off his leg and past Brodeur to pull the Rangers within a goal. Brandon Dubinsky, playing his first game since the Rangers' first-round series with Ottawa, also picked up an assist on the play, his second point of the playoffs.
The comeback would be completed almost an entire period later, but it eventually fell apart, leaving the Rangers with a do-or-die Game 6 on Friday night.
"We've been here twice already," Richards said. "In the first round, we faced elimination (in Game 6 and Game 7). If we go back and play like we did most of this game and keep pushing it that way, we'll have a chance."
NOTES: With Dubinsky returning to the lineup from injury and Prust back after his one-game suspension, forward John Mitchell was a healthy scratch for the first time since March 6. Defenseman Steve Eminger was also scratched from the lineup. ... The three first-period goals were the most the Rangers have given up in any period of the 2012 playoffs. ... Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Eddie Giacomin, whose No. 1 jersey was retired by the Rangers in 1989, was in attendance for the game, along with New York Knicks forward Jared Jeffries and a seven-man contingent from the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, consisting of Justin Tuck, David Baas, David Diehl, Zak DeOssie, Steve Weatherford, Lawrence Tynes and David Carr.