I hope I’m not jinxing it, but the New Jersey Devils are on fire against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers may have been shorthanded, but they’re still a rival, and they’re still an NHL club, which makes the Devils’ 3-1 win at a sold out Prudential Center on Tuesday a gem.
The Devils improved to 5-1-3, and have earned points in eight of their nine games. Since dropping their first in regulation on Saturday in Pittsburgh, the Devils have outscored their opponents– both New York squads– 6-1.
David Clarkson scored two goals, and Patrik Elias registered three more assists.
Martin Brodeur stopped 24 of 25 he faced, surrendering only Chris Kreider’s third-period goal at 6:28.
Adam Henrique just beats the Rangers. The second-year player scored his second goal of 2013, beating New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist and putting New Jersey ahead at 5:00 of the first.
Henrique admitted he changed the curve of his stick, telling MSG-Plus’ Deb Placey he “found better puck control, I knew (Lundqvist) was going to be down, so I tried to get it up there and hope for the best.”
Clarkson also had three points and led the team again with three shots on goal. Clarkson has seven goals through eight games and is now on pace for 42 goals.
Stephen Gionta also had an assist, making a great play to negate icing on Clarkson’s first goal.
The Rangers power play is much maligned by their fans and surrounding media. And deservedly so.
New York is 3-for-35 with a man-advantage this year and failed on all four of its first-period power plays Tuesday, including its four-minute man-advantage when Andy Greene was shipped off for high-sticking. Rangers fans lose their minds over the power play’s inability to generate shots, and Tuesday was no different. New York managed just three shots on net.
The Rangers’ best try came on Marc Staal’s first-period shot that somehow Brodeur deflected with his leg.
Though the Rangers are known for their defensive prowess, they were downright atrocious in their own end on Tuesday.
Michael Del Zotto was a minus-2 in the first period alone. He and Staal each had the opportunity to clear the puck on Henrique’s first-period goal but could not. New York also failed to tie up Clarkson on his power-play tally, which boosted the Devils’ lead to 3-0.
The Rangers– much renowned for their shot-blocking ability a year ago– only blocked eight shots. I think they’re missing Brandon Prust.
Brodeur just keeps rolling along. The Devils netminder stopped 24 shots and frustrated New York all night.
He shut down Rick Nash’s first period try with a two-pad stack and thwarted Marian Gaborik’s shot on goal late in the second too. His third-period glove save on Brian Boyle also was vintage Brodeur.
It looked to me that the Rangers’ puck luck was non-existent. Staal’s first-period shot from point-blank range hit Brodeur’s leg and didn’t go, and Nash’s try early in the second beat Brodeur, but it drifted just wide and out the other side.
On the defensive end on Clarkson’s first goal, the puck handcuffed Nash, and Clarkson whipped a shot by Lundqvist putting New Jersey ahead 2-0. Nash had a tough night. He was a minus-2, took a penalty and had that giveaway on Clarkson’s goal. Gaborik wasn’t much better either.
He may be the NHL’s streakiest player, and it appears he is in a down streak presently. He’s pointless in his last four and was a minus-2 on Tuesday. New York fell to 11th place and is 4-5-0 overall.
It’s hard to believe the Rangers will stay there all year, but they’re digging a hole-and-a-half here for themselves.
A year after they fought just three seconds into their first head-to-head meeting at Prudential Center, the Devils and Rangers didn’t even scuffle. Expect that to be different when the teams meet again March 19 in Newark.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic: Pittsburgh (7-3-0) 4 , N.Y. Islanders (4-4-1) 2 Philadelphia (4-6-0) 2, Tampa Bay (6-3-0) 1 New Jersey trails first-place Pittsburgh by one point. The Devils have a game in hand, though.
Up Next: The Devils will host the high-flying– albeit slumping– Lighting, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Pat Pickens is a lifelong Devils-fan and New Jersey native. To pay the bills, he works as a sports reporter for Hearst in Connecticut. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter here.