Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped John Madden on a penalty shot late in the third period and Brandon Dubinsky added an empty-net goal Friday for a 5-3 win, helping the New York Rangers eliminate the New Jersey Devils in five games in their Eastern Conference quarter-final.
With his team trailing by a goal with seven minutes left, Madden tried a backhand move but couldn't find room between Lundqvist's pads.
"That's what makes him special," said Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr. "In the key situations he comes up big. That was a pressure moment, and he did it."
Jagr, Michal Rozsival, Scott Gomez and Chris Drury scored as the Rangers raced to a 4-1 lead early in the second period before the Devils staged a rally.
Lundqvist made 23 saves.
New York joins Pittsburgh in advancing to the conference semifinals. The two clubs could end up facing each other if Montreal and Philadelphia retain their series leads.
Brian Gionta, Bryce Salvador and Patrik Elias scored for New Jersey, with goaltender Martin Brodeur making 18 saves. The Devils lost all three games of the series in their first playoff experience at the Prudential Center, which opened in October.
Brodeur subpar by his standards
Brodeur, a likely candidate again for the Vezina Trophy as top goalie this season, was subpar by his standards. He finished with a 3.14 goals-against average and .891 save percentage. He has won just two of his last 10 playoff games.
"I think to some degree, as the series went on, he looked tired mentally," said Devils coach Brent Sutter. "He did a lot for this team this year.
"You can't fault your goaltender when you make the amount of mistakes we made before the puck actually entered your net towards your goaltender."
Brodeur was bothered near his crease in Game 3 by pesky forward Sean Avery, who waved his stick high and within centimetres of the goaltender's mask. The NHL head office quickly issued an edict indicating such a tactic qualified as unsportsmanlike conduct.
Avery and Brodeur skated past each other without shaking hands during the end of series tradition.
Never a stranger to controversy, Avery was blunt immediately after the series ended when interviewed by MSG Network.
"Everyone talks about how unclassy I am and fatso there just forget to shake my hand, I guess," Avery said.
Three Devils who hadn't scored a point in the series combined to open the scoring at 4:40 of the first. Dainius Zubrus passed to Travis Zajac, who wheeled around behind the New York net and fed Gionta in the slot.
Sneaking into scoring position
The Rangers replied just 18 seconds later. Jagr outworked both Colin White and Mike Mottau and found Rozsival sneaking into scoring position.
"That shift after we scored the goal certainly was a momentum change in the game, when you look back on it, was pretty significant," said Sutter.
Jagr scored less than two minutes later on the power play, beating Brodeur between the pads from the right face-off circle. Jagr finished with eight points in the series.
Aided by consecutive New York penalties, the Devils put on sustained pressure for much of the next four minutes, but couldn't score, and with just one burst of activity, the Rangers soon made it a 3-1 lead.
Brendan Shanahan and Sean Avery dug furiously in the trenches to keep the pressure on, with former Devil Gomez potting the rebound from a scramble in front of the net at 18:01 of the first.
When Drury one-timed a cross-ice pass from rookie Nigel Dawes at 5:35 of the second for a 4-1 lead, it appeared the Rangers would cruise to the second round.
New Jersey gained momentum, however, on a strange goal. Salvador's slapshot from outside the New York blue-line and the shot ricocheted off Dubinsky and past Lundqvist.
Lundqvist preserves the lead
The Devils found themselves on a 5-on-3 power play midway through the second and after several whacks at the puck, Elias banked a shot off New York defenceman Fedor Tyutin and in the net for a 4-3 score at 13:50.
"It wasn't easy," Jagr said. "You feel like it's over, then they score those two goals. I'm not saying you're scared, but it wasn't good."
The score remained the same until Dubinsky's empty-netter with one minute left in the third.
Lundqvist foiled Zach Parise to help preserve New York's lead, while Brodeur came way out of his net to snuff out a potential breakaway for Avery.
New York defender Dan Girardi swept Madden off his feet on a breakaway to set up the pivotal penalty shot.
The Rangers put the cap on their uncanny dominance over the Devils this season, going 11-1-1 against their rivals.
New Jersey, which won the Stanley Cup three times between 1995 and 2003, haven't made it past the second round of the playoffs since.