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Devils Party at MSG

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By IRA PODELL  AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ David Clarkson’s deflected goal 2:31 into the
third period snapped a tie and lifted the New Jersey Devils to a
3-2 victory over the New York Rangers that evened the Eastern
Conference finals at one game apiece on Wednesday night.

Clarkson built off the momentum created by Ryan Carter’s goal
late in the second period that tied the game, 2-2. Ilya Kovalchuk
had given the Devils a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal in the
first. Defenseman Bryce Salvador added two assists, and Martin
Brodeur stopped 23 saves for the win.
“We had to keep going to the net, and I think we were doing
some good things,” Clarkson said. “We’ve been playing some good
hockey and we’ve got to continue to do it. That is a big win for
us.”

Marc Staal and Chris Kreider scored in the second for the
Rangers, who lost their third straight Game 2 after winning the
series opener. Top-seeded New York, which had 24 saves by Henrik
Lundqvist, hasn’t had a two-game lead at any point in these
playoffs.

Game 3 will be Saturday in New Jersey.

New Jersey got even at 2 when Salvador wound up for a shot at
the blue line and fired a drive that Carter _ with his back to the
net _ brilliantly deflected past Lundqvist with 1:51 left in the
second. Marian Gaborik stood up straight in front of Salvador, but
didn’t drop down as many of his teammates have to try to block the
shot. For that, he was pinned to the bench by coach John
Tortorella, even through New York’s power play in the third.
Gaborik returned to the ice with 8:40 remaining.

The Devils kept the pressure on the Rangers at the start of the
third and wiped out the good work New York displayed in the second.
After spending much of the first penned in their own end, the
Rangers rebounded to erase their early deficit and briefly take the
lead thanks to their previously inept power play.

With Alexei Ponikarovsky off for interference, Staal fired a
shot that sailed wide of the net and struck the back boards before
popping back in front and pinballing into the net off Salvador and
Brodeur at 2:23. The goal was originally credited to Derek Stepan,
who was in front, but the puck managed to miss him both on the way
toward the net and on the bounce back.

Staal nearly netted another moments later when he ripped a drive
that Brodeur had to lunge fully to his left to snare with his
glove.

Kreider, the rookie from Boston College, scored for the second
straight game to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 12:19. Anton
Stralman let go a shot from above the right circle that ticked
Kreider’s stick and fluttered past Brodeur for the rookie’s fourth
goal. He had to wait to get it because it was first given to
Stralman before being changed during a commercial break.

But that was hardly the longest delay of the night. Before
Kreider’s power-play goal, the action was stopped for about eight
minutes as arena workers struggled to get the door to the Devils’
penalty box opened. Travis Zajac stood patiently as he waited to
have a seat in the box. He even managed to laugh as did New Jersey
coach Peter DeBoer and the usually stoic and agitated Tortorella.

Zajac, who first was sent to the Rangers’ box, stayed in New
Jersey’s sin bin for only 1:47 before Kreider scored the Rangers’
second power-play goal of the night.

New York registered the first six shots of the period before New
Jersey had its first about 8 minutes in, but the teams were even at
17 through 40 minutes.

Lundqvist had a bit of glove magic of his own midway through the
second when a shot by Anton Volchenkov was deflected by Kovalchuk
but tracked and grabbed by Lundqvist.

The Devils got their elusive first goal of the series, and the
all-important lead in the game, when Kovalchuk connected on the
power play late in the first period.

After Brian Boyle was sent off for slashing Zach Parise, the
Devils continued their puck-possession prowess in the Rangers’ end.
New Jersey moved the puck all around the zone in search of a clean
shot that could get past the diving New York defense and perhaps
challenge Lundqvist, who made 21 saves in the series-opening win.

Marek Zidlicky curled with the puck to the center of the blue
line and slid a pass down to the left circle to Kovalchuk, who
calmly and patiently drifted in and snapped a shot up and under the
crossbar in the upper corner of the net for his sixth goal of the
playoffs and fourth on the power play.

The Devils didn’t record a shot on goal until 6:01 in when
Patrik Elias put a wrist shot in on Lundqvist, but New Jersey
finished the first period with an 8-5 edge in shots _ despite
having six more blocked by the Rangers.

Whether Brodeur was kidding or not about wanting Rangers to be
injured by blocking shots, the home team wasn’t deterred from
getting in front of drives. New York forward Brandon Prust was
doing a bit of a dance in front of the dangerous Kovalchuk, trying
to deny any potential drive, even though he was defending without a
stick.

When Kovalchuk finally scored later in the period, he let out a
big yell _ part celebration and an exclamation of relief _ as he
skated in front of the glass behind the net.

NOTES: The Rangers were 10 for 61 (16.4 percent) on the power
play in the postseason before Wednesday. This marked the second
time they netted a man-advantage goal in consecutive games, but
they fourth time they scored two in a game. … The Devils returned
defenseman Peter Harrold to the lineup and sat rookie Adam Larsson.
Harrold replaced Larsson in the lineup late in the season and
started the first nine postseason games. Larsson played in the
previous five games. … Salvador already had a career-best six
points in the playoffs before Game 2.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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