Devils sweep away Rangers
Globe and Mail Update
New York If the New York Rangers are wondering just how they came
to be swept out of the National Hockey League playoffs with such ease
by the New Jersey Devils, all they have to do is take a good look at
Brian Gionta's insurance goal on Saturday afternoon.
Gionta's goal came at 4:30 of the third period and ensured the
Devils' 4-2 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It also
completed a Devils sweep of their first-round best-of-seven Eastern
Conference series with four consecutive wins.
All of the elements that went into the Rangers' loss in their first
appearance in the playoffs in nine years were evident in Gionta's
goal: The Devils' quickness to profit from Ranger mistakes, their
dominance of special-teams play, the Rangers' lack of solid
goaltending and their sheer bad luck.
With Devils forward Jason Wiemer serving an interference penalty, the
Rangers tried to mount a power-play rush. But Petr Sykora's ill-
advised cross-ice pass in the neutral zone was picked off by Gionta,
who took off toward the Ranger net.
As he closed in on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Gionta wound up and
ripped a 20-foot slapshot. Lundqvist had an amazing rookie season for
the Rangers but that magic was nowhere in sight in this playoff
Gionta's shot beat Lundqvist cleanly and hit the crossbar. If this
had been a Ranger shot, there is no doubt it would have bounced away
from the net. They hit posts or crossbars eight times in the four
games of the series and every puck stayed out of the net.
But this was a Devil of a shot and it caromed into the net to give
the Devils a 3-1 lead. The Devils are so disciplined and so efficient
at checking they simply do not surrender two-goal leads, not even in
the new, goal-happy NHL.
It was also a short-handed goal, hammering home another theme of the
series. The Devils completely dominated the special-teams aspect of
the series. Gionta's goal was their third shorthanded goal of the
series. And their power play outscored the Rangers' power play 8-3.
Patrik Elias put the Devils ahead 4-1 after a brilliant move on
Ranger defenceman Fedor Tyutin. Steve Rucchin scored for the Rangers
on a power play, but it came with one minute and 27 seconds left in
the third period and was too late.
The Rangers' day did not get off to a good start they lost Jaromir
Jagr 53 seconds into the game. Jagr, who came back to play in Game 3
of the series after suffering a left shoulder separation in the first
game, was knocked out of the game by Devils defenceman Brad Lukowich.
Lukowich hit Jagr in the Devils zone with a solid body check. The hit
was on Jagr's right shoulder, but when he went down it appeared Jagr
either hit the boards with his left shoulder or landed on the ice on
it. He left for the dressing room hunched over and favouring his left
Given that Jagr powers the Ranger offence, which has been practically
non-existent in the series because of his injury, his loss was a
devastating blow to the Rangers.
A few minutes into the game the Ranger fans had something else to
fume about. Marcel Hossa put the puck into the net for what appeared
to be the first Ranger lead of the series, but the goal was waved off
because a delayed penalty was called on the Rangers. Instead of
celebrating the first playoff goal of his NHL career, Hossa was sent
to the penalty box for interference.
The Rangers managed to kill that penalty off and shook off the loss
of Jagr to play one of their few good periods of the series. They had
several scoring chances on Brodeur, who did not look nearly as sharp
has he had in the previous games. But whenever they had a clear shot
or a chance for a rebound, the Rangers either missed the net or could
not get control of the puck.
But they kept coming at the Devils and the payoff finally came with
19 seconds left in the period.
Jed Ortmeyer, who with linemate Ryan Hollweg has been one of the few
Rangers willing to play a physical game made a rush down the left
side in the last minute. He took a backhand shot at Brodeur from the
goal line and the goaltender was a little sloppy in closing the gap
between his goal pad and the post.
The puck hit Brodeur and bounced into the net at 19:49. It was the
Rangers' first lead of the series and sent the Garden crowd into a
At the start of the second period, the Rangers kept coming at the
Devils. They even started shooting the puck more, something their
head coach, Tom Renney, and their fans had been begging them to do
throughout the series.
But the good mood dissipated quickly.
First, Devils centre Erik Rasmussen drove Hollweg into the boards
from behind. He had to be helped to the bench, and did not return to
the game until the start of the third period.
A few minutes later, the Rangers were caught with too many men on the
ice. That produced the tying goal, as Devils centre Scott Gomez beat
Lundqvist with a 30-foot wrist shot at 4:20.
The Rangers took another penalty a few minutes later and Patrik
Elias, the best player in this series, gave the Devils the lead. He
deflected a shot by Gomez into the net at 7:21 to make it 2-1.