Posted on April 18, 2008 11:50 PM | Permalink
Two years ago, the Devils swept a not-ready-for-prime-time Rangers team out of its first playoff appearance in eight years. Tonight, the Rangers showed just how far they've come since.
With big goals from their two prize catches from 2007 free agency - Chris Drury and ex-Devil Scott Gomez - and another fine game in goal from Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers defeated the Devils 53 at the Prudential Center to take their Eastern Conference quarter-final series in five games.
Lundqvist, who outplayed living legend Martin Brodeur in pretty much every game of the series, shook off two fluky second-period goals that trimmed a 4-1 Rangers lead and then stopped John Madden on a penalty shot with 7:08 left in regulation.
"Close again," Lundqvist said after the Rangers pulled out yet another tight game from the Devils, making it 11 victories, one overtime loss and one shootout loss in the teams' 13 meetings in the regular season and playoffs this year. "I tried to be confident and stick to my game. I kept reminding myself, 'Play your game. They've beaten you with two really weird goals.'"
The rest of the Rangers had a similarly calming chat amongst themselves between the second and third periods. And the emerged to play yet another solid third, which has been standard in just about every game they've played against the Devils this season.
"When you get in a situation like tongiht, it could have been a panic-filled second intermission," winger Brendan Shanahan said. "But instead, we just regrouped and broke it down and said, 'They got two lucky goals: one on a dump-in, one on a five-on-three.
"And if someone had told us at the beginning of the night that we could start the third up, 4-3 - forget about the fact that it was 4-1 at one point - we'd have taken it.'"
What the Rangers took out of this series was more than just a ticket to the second round. This was a far more confidence-inspiring achievement than sweeping an inexperienced Atlanta team in last spring's first round.
"Any team that ever goes through the Devils, you learn a lot," Gomez said. "Finally being on the other side, you realize that to go through New Jersey is going to build confidence. It's a big step.
"That first round is one of the toughest to get out of. But that's not the reason that we came here, to win one series. You look at all the guys, we want to bring a Cup back to New York. And we put ourselves in a position to move on."