Game 5’s setting for the Eastern Conference Finals was held at the historic Madison Square Garden where the at-home New York Rangers hosted the New Jersey Devils. It was here the Rangers were hoping to harvest a victory to head the third lead change of the series. This third lead change would have provided a 3-2 series lead for the fruits of their labor. This Rangers’ garden has produced a decent crop for the team and their fans all season long, but on this Wednesday night, their garden was looted by some neighborhood Devils.
The New Jersey Devils took a 3-2 series lead Wednesday night with a 5-3 victory over the Rangers. The win produced goals from five different sets of Devils hands’, sticks, and skates (Stephen Gionta [3,] Patrik Elias [4,] Travis Zajac [7,] Ryan Carter [3,] and Zach Parise .) The victory gave the Devils their second straight victory at the very cylindrically shaped Madison Square Garden, and they now return to Newark to fight for their fourth and final win for this series.
A good sports announcer may have already read the words in your mind to describe this roller coaster event featuring multiple peaks and drops for both teams. The Devils opened with another swift and early 3-0 lead; all coming before the halfway point of the first period. As was prior cases this postseason, the 3-0 lead was not held on to comfortably.
Steven Gionta kept his family name rendering familiar archives in the Devils’ family by putting the Devils up 1-0. His backhand from center slid under Lundqvist following a rebound from Mark Fayne’s right point wrist-er at 2:43. Patrik Elias put the Devils up two deflecting an Adam Henrique one timer in with less than five minutes gone in the first. At 9:49, Travis Zajac skated up and zapped a right circle slap-shot passed the stick side of the reaching Lundqvist to give the Devils a fresh three score advantage.
All three opening goals were scored on just five shots from the Devils. Pet DeBoer, speaking after the game, described this wild victory as “an adventure” for him and his team. The Rangers’ mounted comeback from a three goal deficit was loudly coalesced with that description. They started what would get as close as a tie with the Devils on Brandon Prust’s (back from a one game suspension) score after sliding into Martin Brodeur/the right side of the net with 4:19 left in the first.
Prust wasn’t the only one down on the ice in this game or in many of the Rangers’ competitions this season. The Rangers out-shot the Devils 28-17 in this game largely because of what has become a common defensive strategy for the team; lying down and taking a puck on the ice. Whether it is falling forward or to their backs, they defend many shots on goal by doing so.
After Ryan Callahan’s tip-in shot early in the second period, Marian Gaborik tied the game with his own early period goal in the third. Gaborik’s score 17 seconds into the third period tied the game at 3, and the goal was greatly credited to Martin Brodeur’s own skate gently knocking in the loose puck from an initial save. After hearing New York’s crowd back in the game and degrading chants of “Marty,” it was safe to say things were looking dreary for the Devils, momentum-wise.
But it was those favoring the Rangers within their New York post that would be going home disappointed. Ryan Carter, who has one Stanley Cup victory under his belt with the Anaheim Ducks, uplifted the faltering and seemingly tired Devils offense at 15:36 with his score in the third. The clutch, go-ahead goal came on a beautiful centering pass from Steven Gionta behind the goal line. Gionta’s and Carter’s communication was impeccable on the goal, and the duo came through when the team needed each the most.
Icing the cake for the Devils was Zach Parise with the empty net with 31 seconds left in the game. Parise’s goal ties him at 7 with Zajac for the team lead in these playoffs. Martin Brodeur saved 25 of 28 saves sent his way, and the rest of the power play defense did not allow a goal on either of two chances for the Rangers.
The craft of inter-player communicating and strong defense is a necessity for the Devils’ Game 6 against the Rangers. The Devils also did fairly well minimizing their penalties. They will have their home crowd to win the Eastern Conference Finals in front of Friday night, but as much as a home crowd can be a great support system, it can’t be sought to as a crutch. Defeating the Rangers in this series is still a full 60 minutes of regulation away. If the Devils can patiently execute every opportunity given to them (particularly, rebounding shots in front of Lundqvist) they will close out this series in 6 games to face the Kings.
Bring your Devils gear to wherever you are watching the game, and do not blink or give out the slightest gasp that might allow for a Game 6 distraction. The Game’s 8:00 ET start could be a clincher for the Devils; driven for that fourth Stanley Cup.