The New York Rangers defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-2 at the Garden tonight for the seventh straight time this season thanks to Nigel Dawes, Chris Drury, and Scott Gomez.
With 3:06 left in the third, Drury, who assisted on all 3 Rangers goals, was in position to shoot the puck but instead sent a pass through the middle of the slot towards the driving Dawes, who deflected off of Devils defenseman Sheldon Brookbanks' stick and forced Martin Brodeur to make a right pad save.
As the puck layed in the crease, Dawes, who was knocked down by Devils Travis Zajac, slide into to net and pushed the puck in with his shoulder to give the Rangers the game winning goal.
"Against a team like this I think what wins out is to try and stay composed and poised and work hard within our structure," said Tom Renney. "It seems as games go on against these guys, we believe in that even more so. When it comes to the wire, we almost get a rush from it."
While the first period of play was a battle of the net minders (Hendrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur), Gomez, which was his first game back since he injured his ribs, was getting roughed up from the Devils Dainius Zubrus but that didn't slow Gomez down as he dominated the game with his speed and assisted on both Rangers power plays goals.
"This is the time of year when you want to be out there," said Gomez. "I think we all came here to win a Stanley Cup. So, this is not a signature game for me, or for us. It's a good win; but hopefully we're going to be making a long run in the playoffs."
Going into the second tied up 0-0, Sean Avery drew a penalty as he fell into Brodeur and then Colin White who came to Brodeurs' aid, got in the mix of things and took a 2:00 minor for roughing. With that, the blue shirts had a chance to take the lead on the power play.
A minute into the Rangers power play, Gomez skated in behind the Devils net and fed the hanging Brandon Shanahan with a one-timer pass that blew by Brodeurs' stick side to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
With the Devils hard work, the blueshirts got sloppy in their zone and couldn't clear the puck which led to the game tying goal by Patrick Elias.
Devils defenseman Paul Martin shot the puck towards the net, which was deflected past a screened Lundqvist, by Elias which evened the game at 1.
Two minutes left in the second, Christian Backman made a crucial mistake when he tried to lift the puck out of his zone but was denied when Zach Parise slapped the biscuit back down to the ice and scored a wicked wrist shot that went top shelf over Lundqvist glove that gave the Devils the lead 2-1.
Early in the third period Backman redeemed himself with a power play goal to tie the game back up 2-2 and got cheers instead of boos from the garden faithful.
Gomez fed a perfect cross ice pass to Backman who then riped a wrist shot from the left point that went top shelf stick side on Brodeur."Christian's a good hockey player," said Head Coach Tom Renney. "He displays courage and character in his own way. And I think we saw that tonight, everybody in the building did."
Midpoint in the third, Brodeur was tested as the Rangers poured on the shots and created a couple of good scoring chances but they were unable to score.
Christian Backman drew the 3rd power play for the Rangers but the Devils gave the blue shirts no time to set up as they kept clearing the puck.
The Rangers power play showed signs of life by scoring two goals out of three chances on the power play.
With two minutes left in the third and the Rangers leading 3-2, it was Henrik Lundqvists' turn to face the spot light as he stifled the Devils by giving them no chance to come back to tie the game.
Lundqvist had a brilliant game by stopping 23 of the 25 shots. He kept the Rangers in the game when he stoned Jamie Langenbrunner. Langenbrunner's snap shot was gloved by King Henrik and it brought chants of "Henrik, Henrik" from the crowd.
"We talked about it before the third period that we had come back against them in the third last time. We knew it, and they knew it," said Lundqvist, who won his 35th game of the season. "So, we came out extremely confident in the third period."
With a win over the Devils, who have now lost five straight, the Rangers are tied in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 91 points.Rangers have five games remaining in the regular season, back to back games against the first place Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders before capping off the regular season against the Devils.