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The New Jersey Devils defeated the New York Rangers 4-1 to tie the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece as goalie Martin Brodeur got his 109th playoff win, withstood a third-period punch and even collected an assist.
Bryce Salvador and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils in a four-minute span midway through the first period last night at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Zach Parise then added a pair of goals in the third period, one on a power play and the latter into an empty net with one minute, 29 seconds remaining. Brodeur got an assist on the final goal.
The 40-year-old Brodeur, who led the Devils to Stanley Cup titles in 1995, 2000 and 2003, saw his bid for a record- extending 25th career playoff shutout end with 5:05 left when Ruslan Fedotenko scored the Rangers’ lone goal. Brodeur also took a jab in the chest during the third period from former Devils winger Mike Rupp, who had 14 of the Rangers’ 34 penalty minutes over the final 20 minutes.
“We were able to get to them somehow and that’s how they took some penalties in the third and took themselves out of the game,” Brodeur, who had 28 saves, said in a televised interview. “We have to try to keep doing the same thing.”
Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is scheduled for tomorrow at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“It’s a three-game series now and this team has been here before,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said at a news conference. “When you get in these situations -- and we’ve been training all playoff season -- they always find a way to find a good game. So I’m truly confident we’ll answer it the proper way.”
The teams will return to Newark on May 25 for Game 6 and a decisive seventh game, if necessary, would be May 27 at Madison Square Garden.
The winner of the series will play the Los Angeles Kings or the Phoenix Coyotes for the Stanley Cup. The Kings lead the Western Conference finals 3-1, with Game 5 tonight in Phoenix.
The Devils, after being shut out 3-0 in Game 3, jumped out to a quick lead last night as Salvador beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at 8:10 of the first period and Zajac followed 3:49 later with his sixth goal of the playoffs.
“The first one was a big one,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “It kind of lifted a weight off us and I thought we played a little bit looser and freer from then on.”
Parise extended the lead with a power-play goal 2:41 into the third period, a score that came four seconds after the Rangers’ Derek Stepan was sent off for a high-sticking penalty. It was the first of New York’s nine penalties in the period.
When Parise added an empty-net goal, it marked the first time this postseason that the Rangers have allowed more than three goals. They’d tied an NHL record by holding opponents to three goals or fewer in the first 17 games of the postseason.
There were 48 penalty minutes handed out after the incident in which Rupp took a shot at Brodeur and then got into a scuffle with the Devils’ Peter Harrold. Tensions also escalated off the ice, where DeBoer and Tortorella shouted at each other from the end of their benches. Both coaches declined to discuss the incident after the game.
“It was a struggle for a number of our guys, but we have to move by it,” Tortorella said. “We have to have a short-term memory. We go back home, we regroup and we play another game.”
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