Maybe the Devils are getting sick of seeing the Rangers. Or just maybe the Blueshirts prefer to see their Hudson rivals as opponents because they seem to bring out the best in Tom Renney's club.
Whatever the reason(s), the Rangers were extremely sharp this afternoon and posted a 1-0 overtime shutout at a quiet Garden. What? The play was totally AWESOME!
Yes, it was one of the most boring games you'll probably ever see. Both teams were very patient with and without the puck and the offenses generated little throughout regulation.
The goalies didn't have to stand on their heads but both Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist made a few key stops to push this chess match to overtime where a crucial extra point in the division was up for grabs.
It didn't take long to decide thanks to Brendan Shanahan, who rifled home a perfect Scott Gomez feed in the high slot top shelf past Brodeur for the contest's only goal on the first shift of OT just 30 seconds in.
It was the 38 year-old veteran right wing's team-leading 10th of the season from Gomez and defenseman Fedor Tyutin, giving the Rangers a badly needed victory to end their three-game skid and in the process take care of Brent Sutter's club's nine-game winning streak.
The win improved New York to 4-0 against the Devils (0-2-2) giving them six more points in the first four contests of 2007-08. Those points could come in handy a few months from now if this tightly contested Atlantic comes down to the wire.
We'll just have to wait and see.
As for the netminders, Brodeur was busier stopping 28 of 29 while his Swedish counterpart turned aside all 17 for his fifth shutout of the season- trailing only Columbus' Pascal Leclaire for the league lead.
"I was thinking, 'Get pumped up for this game,' and it's not hard to get that feeling going out there to play against the Devils and play against Marty," a pleased Lundqvist expressed to the AP after his 12th career blanking. "After the first period I felt like I was back."
Maybe the night off in Atlanta helped. But also, the lack of Devils' shots against a stingy Ranger D didn't hurt much either.
Despite that, the 2004 Olympic gold medal-winning goalie still had to be sharp at times like Zach Parise's nifty redirection of a Brian Gionta pass only 13 seconds in. But his best stop came later when defenseman Paul Mara fell down at his own blueline allowing John Madden to get a breakaway. But Lundqvist outwaited the new Devils' alternate captain by easily gloving his backhand deke.
As for Brodeur, he stopped all 12 Ranger shots in a lopsided first where NY held the edge in play outshooting New Jersey 12-4. While most of the chances were kept to the outside, the future Hall of Famer still had to make a couple of difficult stops such as Chris Drury's slapper thru traffic. However, his best save of the contest came later when on a broken play, he somehow gloved Petr Prucha's sneaky backhand from in close to rob the Czech of a sure goal.
Why did the Rangers snap out of their funk (though not much offense still thanks to a dreadful 0-for-5 PP which did little)?
Because they were mentally sharper than in recent losses. You didn't see too many odd-man rushes. But maybe the most telling positive was during a New Jersey man-advantage when Martin Straka blocked three consecutive Karel Rachunek point tries including a couple without a stick sacrificing his body to get the job done on the PK earning a nice ovation. It probably was the loudest the arena was until Shanny's deciding tally.
That kind of focus and attention to detail had been missing from the Rangers' game lately.
"That's what you have to do, you have to block shots," Straka later pointed out. "I didn't try to do anything. I just tried to line up with the guy."
Fortunately for the Rangers, he didn't need any X-rays.
"The first one hurt. The other one I just went down and I was lucky enough that it hit me," Straka said. "I didn't break anything, that's the good thing."
"They always present a big challenge to us, especially with them being on a nine-game winning streak," Shanahan admitted. "We talked a little bit before the third period about not getting frustrated with the 0-0 tie."
As for the Devs, they might've come away disappointed with the end result but still were able to manage a point despite not their best showing.
"We have to look at the positives," Patrik Elias noted. "We had something special going. To get a point in 10 games in a row that's great. We've just got to let it go."
"We didn't enough shots on net and we didn't test him [Lundqvist] enough," Parise added.
As a result, they were shutout for the second time this season by King Henrik and have only managed to beat him three times.
Fortunately, they don't see the 26 year-old standout until the beginning of February next year. Maybe by then they'll have come up with a better formula to solve him.
For now, it's Lundqvist who has the upper hand over the new Kings of Newark.
Notes: Devils dressed F Mike Rupp for the first time in 10 games healthy scratching D Vitaly Vishnevski. ... LW Jay Pandolfo sat out for the fifth consecutive game with a groin injury. ... D Paul Mara again dressed in place of Marek Malik, who looks to be the odd man out on the Ranger blueline with rookie Marc Staal continuing to log more minutes (20:19 TOI) with Michal Rozsival. ... It's the first time the Devils have dropped four straight regular season meetings to the Rangers since 1993-94. ... The Devils are now 8-0-1 with D Colin White in the lineup.