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OmegaNYC
April 7th, 2008, 12:09 PM
Devils staying home in first round after beating Rangers

BY JOHN DELLAPINA
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Updated Monday, April 7th 2008, 9:46 AM
http://www.nydailynews.com/img/2008/04/07/alg_patrikelias.jpg

Kostroun/AP Patrik Elias beats Henrik Lundqvist for the game-winner in the shootout.

http://www.nydailynews.com/img/2008/04/07/amd_davidclarkson.jpg

Kostroun/AP
David Clarkson celebrates Mike Rupp's goal as Marek Malik and Lundqvist get plowed.

It took the Devils until the final moment of an 82-game season - the final shot of an eight-game season series - to finally manage a win against the Rangers (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/New+York+Rangers).

But it required even less than that to get the Devils the potentially pivotal edge that is home-ice advantage in the first-round playoff series between the bitter rivals that begins Wednesday night.
Because when Chris Drury (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Chris+Drury) and Patrik Elias (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Patrik+Elias) both decided to go in the same direction with the final faceoff of the third period and the puck got yanked past Michal Rozsival (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Michal+Rozsival) and out of the Devils' zone, New Jersey (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/New+Jersey+Devils) had secured the regulation tie Sunday that was all it needed to finish ahead of the Rangers in the standings and start their playoff series in Newark (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Newark).
All that was left once regulation ran out was for the Devils to scratch a six-month itch. And they finally did so when Elias ripped a shootout shot off the crossbar and into the net behind Henrik Lundqvist (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Henrik+Lundqvist) to lift them to a season-closing 3-2 victory over the Rangers at the Rock.

"I think it comes down to there is a high level of pride in that dressing room," said Devils coach Brent Sutter (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Brent+Sutter), who had downplayed the Rangers' seven straight wins over his team until Sunday. "We were 0-7 going into today."
Jaromir Jagr (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Jaromir+Jagr) - again a monster and far and away the Rangers' best player down the season's stretch - ripped home his 25th goal of the season to tie the game 4:46 into the third, after the Rangers had trailed 2-0 at the first intermission. Jagr then drew a hooking penalty against John Madden (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/John+Madden) with 28.2 seconds left in regulation, giving the Blueshirts a chance to make it 8-0-0 against the Devils this season in the only way that mattered Sunday. That was by winning in regulation, which was required for the Rangers to hop over the Devils and into fourth place in the Eastern Conference, thereby earning home-ice advantage in the first round.

But a sharp-angle Jagr shot was all the Rangers managed on their six-on-four power play - Lundqvist, brilliant over the last 45 minutes, had been pulled for an extra attacker with 1:04 left. So the Devils survived.
Then, after a wacky overtime in which the Rangers finished their power play and the Devils had two, New Jersey broke its schneid. Zach Parise (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Zach+Parise) answered Scott Gomez (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Scott+Gomez)'s goal in the third round of the shootout before Martin Brodeur (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Martin+Brodeur) stopped Fredrik Sjostrom (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Fredrik+Sjostrom) and Elias beat Lundqvist in the fourth.

"Definitely, we went into the game wanting to win. At the end, we did all we could - we pulled the goalie to get the win," said Brendan Shanahan (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Brendan+Shanahan). "But we didn't. And like I said before the game, both teams wanted home-ice advantage, but once that was established, whether we got it or they did, I don't think either team was going to feel collapsed or anything like that."

Rather, when Games 1 and 2 are played in Newark Wednesday and Friday nights, the Rangers figure to be uplifted by the way their captain and goaltender performed down the stretch. Jagr scored seven goals in the final eight games and often was unstoppable. Lundqvist yielded a couple of first-period softies Sunday to John Madden and Mike Rupp (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Mike+Rupp) but was otherwise superb and completed the season series against the Devils having allowed just nine goals on 205 shots for a 1.12 goals-against average and .956 save percentage.

The Devils will be emboldened by finally breaking through against the Rangers Sunday after so many close calls. And by the continued ability of their new crash line of David Clarkson (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/David+Clarkson), Dainius Zubrus (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Dainius+Zubrus) and Rupp to cause problems for the Rangers.

"Of course, we wanted to win in regulation and start at home," said Jagr, whose 71 points wound up leading the Rangers in scoring for the third straight season. "But when you look at it, it doesn't matter what the score was, every game was pretty close - two shootouts and overtimes. . . . One thing for sure, it's not going to be easy for anybody. Not only today, but .every game we played was pretty tight. I don't expect anything else in the playoffs - probably tight games decided by one goal, one mistake."

BETTER BETTS: C Blair Betts (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Blair+Betts) returned to Rangers' lineup for first time since undergoing foot surgery March 21. He centered Sjostrom and Shanahan on a new fourth line that could be deployed in the playoffs as a checking line. . . . D Marek Malik (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Marek+Malik) played for the first time in six games in place of Paul Mara (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Paul+Mara). But Mara is expected to dress and Malik to sit out once the playoffs begin.

ZippyTheChimp
April 16th, 2008, 11:06 PM
Rangers put Devils on the brink.