For two periods it was dead quiet. Scoring chances were few and far between. No goals in sight. And then the Rangers blew things open.
Jaromir Jagr and Sean Avery scored 23 seconds apart early in the third period to pace New York to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils Friday night in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final.
The Rangers return home with a 2-0 series lead after winning the first two games in New Jersey and with a world of confidence — Friday's win was the Rangers' ninth in 10 games against the Devils this season.
Having squandered home-ice advantage, the fourth-seeded Devils now face the daunting task of heading to Manhattan, where they will need to win the next two games against the No. 5 Rangers in order to tie the best-of-seven series.
But that's easier said than done because the Rangers have never lost a best-of-seven series in which they have led 2-0. What's more, New Jersey has lost four of the five playoff series in which it fell behind 2-0.
"They are definitely taking control of the series," said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who made 28 saves. "We feel that we are not far away. A bounce here, a bounce there and it could have gone our way today. We have to keep our heads up and try to do to them what they did to us in their building."
While Jagr and Avery took care of the offence, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves in front of a tight New York defence that frustrated Devils forwards for 60 minutes.
Game 2 was a tight-checking and defensive contest, and neither side really threatened in the first period. Tempers boiled over in the middle frame, with the teams combining for 14 penalties.
That set the stage for a dramatic third period, which saw the game come to life with a combined 29 shots and two quick goals by the Rangers.
Jagr finally broke the deadlock at 4:26 of the third when he beat Brodeur at the near post with a weak shot from the circle. The marker was Jagr's 73rd career playoff goal, tying him with Dino Ciccarelli for 12th place on the NHL's all-time list.
The Devils barely had time to recuperate, as Avery scored just 23 seconds later, beating Brodeur on the glove side with a wicked wrist shot from the slot.
"Big time scorers will find a way to score goals," Brodeur said.
Devils forward John Madden made things interesting when he deflected a Patrick Elias effort on net past Lundqvist with 1:23 left in regulation, but the Rangers goalie made a great glove save on a slapshot by Paul Martin in the final minute to preserve the victory.
"Obviously, you don't want to go down 3-0," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We understand what that means. We have to throw it all out there. We've been close in these games but we have to find that little extra to put us over the top."
Game 3 goes Sunday (7 p.m. ET) in New York.