Devils hang on for Game 5 win

Posted: May 25, 2012

NEW YORK - When asked what his inefficient forwards needed to do to beat Martin Brodeur in the Eastern Conference final, irascible Rangers coach John Tortorella simply said: "Pray."

Turns out, prayer was a good way to exorcise the devils in the Rangers' tightly gripped sticks. Just not the actual Devils from New Jersey.

After struggling to score through the first four games against New Jersey, the Rangers were faced with the task of a daunting, three-goal deficit in the first 10 minutes of Wednesday night's Game 5. New York steadily chipped away, dominating play, to knot the score just 17 seconds into the third period.

But Tortorella's crew could not finish the job. They were one Hail Mary short.

After watching their three-goal edge slip away, Ryan Carter finally solved Henrik Lundqvist with 4:24 remaining to give the Devils a 5-3 win in a hostile Madison Square Garden. Zach Parise added an empty-netter to seal the deal.

The sixth-seeded Devils are just one win from a Stanley Cup final matchup with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in Los Angeles.

"We definitely greased it out," Devils forward Travis Zajac said. "It wasn't our best game, we know that. We just stuck with it. The games are too important to get frustrated or get down. We hung around enough to just get back and get that one goal."

After it appeared that a memorable finish was in the works for the Broadway Blueshirts, the Rangers faithful poured out of the Garden into Manhattan's crowded streets unsure as to whether they'd see their top-seeded team on home-ice this season.

Through the first four games of this series, the Devils clearly outworked, outhit and outmuscled the Rangers three times, in the same fashion in which they extinguished the Flyers' playoff hopes. It took them until the Rangers knotted Game 5 early in the third period to kick that deadly forecheck back into gear.

"After they got that third goal, we finally got back to our game," Zajac said.

For the Rangers, it was the fourth goal that remained elusive. New York has not scored four goals in a playoff game since Game 1 of the first round against Ottawa, which seemingly occurred a lifetime ago. Heck, it feels like hockey was last played in Philadelphia 2 years ago instead of 2 weeks ago.

Truthfully, no matter how many novenas Tortorella said before thrashing his team during the first intermission, the deck was firmly stacked against the Rangers in Game 5. New Jersey scored three times on their first four shots.

Wednesday night marked the first time the Rangers overcame a three-goal deficit - win or lose - in a playoff game since April 10, 1982, against the Flyers.

New York had scored just nine goals in the first four games of this neighborhood brawl. How were they expected to score four times in one game?

Somehow, Brodeur - the same man who thwarted the Flyers just one round ago with somewhat shaky play - had not allowed more than two goals in any playoff game since turning 40 on May 6, the day of Game 4 against Philadelphia.

"I think our approach, going into the third, was that we would take a 1-0 lead going into the third," Parise said. "Unfortunately, that didn't last very long. Then, it's a 0-0 game and you can't do anything about who scored the first three and who scored the next three. We just kept moving forward."

If you are into numerology, the Rangers are a ridiculous 9-2 in the pivotal, odd-numbered playoff games this postseason and an inexplicable 1-7 in the even-numbered games. That doesn't bode well for New York for Friday night's Game 6 across the Hudson River in Newark.

In NHL history, the team with a 3-2 series lead - in any playoff round - has advanced to the next round nearly 80 percent of the time (257-67).

Yes, this is the second time the Rangers have trailed by a 3-2 deficit in a series this spring. And they have needed seven games to eliminate their opponent in each of the first two rounds.

But even after taking the Rangers' best punch on Wednesday night, the Devils continued to surprise. New Jersey's formidable forecheck was not at the top of its game, yet the Devils still found a way to win.

"It wasn't pretty," Parise said. "[Wednesday] was probably the longest stretch we've gone all playoffs that we haven't been sharp. We didn't forecheck properly. I think they played well. They had a lot to do with that. It's hard, when you blow a three-goal lead, to regroup. It wasn't our best game, but we snuck out with the win. That's all that matters."


Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com or on Twitter @DNFlyers. Read his blog, Frequent Flyers, at www.philly.com/frequentflyers.

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