Ryan Callahan, right, of the New York Rangers goes up against New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur and defenceman Bryce Salvador during Game 4 action at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. ((Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) )

Rookie defenceman Marc Staal scored the winning goal with 3:37 left in the third, and the New York Rangers added an empty-net goal in a 5-3 home win over the New Jersey Devils in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

Staal strode in from his point position and fired a slapshot past the outstretched left pad of New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur.

"I was thinking shoot right away," Staal said. "I tried to shoot it to the far post and it just went in."

Martin Straka and Chris Drury each had a goal and an assist for New York, with Scott Gomez opening and closing the scoring in the first period.

The Rangers could advance to the second round of the playoffs Friday when the series shifts back to Newark, N.J.

"There were times tonight where we couldn't get out of our end and they really had us hemmed in, but we are able to, I think in sort of a gritty kind of way, get pucks over the blue-line and turn the tide and go the other way," said Rangers coach Tom Renney.

Patrik Elias scored twice for the Devils, with Mike Mottau scoring early in the third to tie the game 3-3.

New Jersey fought back to draw even with New York on three occasions but couldn't do it a fourth time.

To add insult to injury, John Madden of the Devils drew the puck back on a faceoff in the dying seconds and it went into New Jersey net. The goal was credited to his faceoff counterpart, Gomez.

Jamie Langenbrunner and Zach Parise each had two assists for the Devils.

Brodeur made 33 saves, but now has lost six of his last seven playoff games. Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers finished with 28 saves.

The result marked the first time in the series that the home team won.

The Devils will now try to become the 19th team in NHL history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit. New Jersey did it against Philadelphia in the 2000 Eastern Conference finals.

'We came out flat, everybody'

"We have to play better. It's do or die for us," Brodeur said. "Today was an important game and we came out flat, everybody.

"It's been done before. It will be really hard."

Gomez, a longtime Devil, struck first against his old team, finishing off a pretty three-way passing play with Drury and Daniel Girardi at 12:37 of the first.

Seconds later, New York defenceman Michal Rozsival's bid for a two-goal lead was denied by Brodeur.

New York controlled the first, illustrated by a 12-6 shots advantage.

"We didn't play well in the first twenty minutes, and every goal they got on us tonight, we gave the puck away," said Devils coach Brent Sutter. "We need more from individuals and less mistakes."

New Jersey came out strong in the second and tied the game within a minute.

Lundqvist gave up two fat rebounds, and Elias made him pay for the second error with a shot to the blocker side.

Teams trade goals

The teams then alternated goals the rest of the way until the empty netter.

Brandon Dubinsky fed Straka on a 2-on-1 for a goal at 2:53, but just over four minutes later Elias capitalized on a New York penalty for too many men on the ice to make it a 2-2 tie.

New York couldn't take advantage of a four-minute penalty Travis Zajac incurred for high-sticking, but went into the second intermission with a 3-2 lead after Drury tipped Fedor Tyutin's shot from the point.

Brodeur prevented further damage by stopping Nigel Dawes on successive shots.

A pair of impressive rookie defenders scored for their teams in the third. New Jersey's Mottau tied the game at 4:37.

Paul Martin had a chance to give the Devils their first lead of the game seconds later but was foiled by Lundqvist.

Brodeur got a measure of revenge on Sean Avery, who shot right at the goaltender on a great scoring chance. In the previous game, Avery got in the face of Brodeur by waving his stick around the goalie's mask.

The NHL head office issued a statement on Monday, saying such an act would be subject to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the future.

Zajac and Brian Gionta, who combined for 87 points this season, have yet to get on the scoresheet in the series.

Including the regular season, New York has won 10 of 12 games against the Devils.