NEW YORK – It was a “Code Blue” evening for the New Jersey Devils Monday; the New York Rangers suffocated them every inch of the ice and the Devils’ offense flat lined.
There was no rescuing the club from themselves, resulting in a season-high fifth straight loss, a 3-0 shutout by Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers.
“There was no offense because there is no urgency. You’ve got to pay a price to score goals and we don’t want to do that right now. We aren’t playing like we need to play at this time of the season, bottom line,” Devils coach Brent Sutter explained.
New York put 20 shots on goal in the first period, but it took until 4:35 into the second period for the Rangers to get one past Devils’ goaltender Martin Brodeur.
Brandon Dubinsky grabbed a rebound on Brodeur’s right side and faked Brodeur to the ice. Dubinsky had a wide open net and put the puck right over Brodeur. Dan Girardi and Fredrik Sjostrom assisted on the goal.
The Rangers added two more goals, one by Girardi from the slot and one by Ryan Callahan, who went top-shelf over Marty from the right circle.
Callahan’s goal earned a wave of cheers from the fans at Madison Square Garden, especially for Sean Avery’s secondary assist. Avery had screened Brodeur all night, getting in his face and frustrating the goaltender.
The Devils took 28 minutes in penalties during the game, most of them coming from roughing calls for trying to get Avery out of the crease after the whistle blew play dead.
“There’s guys in this league, that’s their job to disturb,” Captain Jamie Langenbrunner said of Avery. “He has a job and he does it well.”
In the third period, with what little life the Devils had left, David Clarkson tried to fight Avery and he would not fight back.
Clarkson threw the forward to the ice, picked him up and threw him back down, earning Clarkson two roughing penalties and a game misconduct, eliminating him from the rest of the game. Avery was slapped with two minutes for roughing, but really tried to have nothing to do with Clarkson.
“It certainly takes discipline for sure. You fight for your team and fight for your teammates. At that point, I didn’t need to fight for either of them so there really was no point,” Avery explained.
Both teams, though, were fighting for the postseason; the Rangers to get in and the Devils to get back the second place seed in the Eastern Conference they had all but locked up.
The win puts the Rangers three points ahead of eighth-seed Montreal and one point behind sixth-seed Pittsburgh. But Rangers Coach John Tortorella is not going to assume anything yet.
“We don’t have a playoff spot. We are in the playoffs but we are still fighting for our lives. We are just trying to find a way to get points,” Tortorella said. “We are just taking it a game at a time. I know playoffs is a subject, but we want to just get in and we are going to take it a game at a time to give ourselves a chance to get in there.”
Despite having a playoff spot locked up, the five-game skid the Devils are on is nearly identical to the losing streak New Jersey took into the post-season last year, when these same Rangers bumped them out in five games.
“Don’t you want to finish second in your conference? Don’t you want have home ice advantage if you advance past the first round? Don’t you want to have pride in the fact that you have your game at the top of your level this time of year? You can’t turn a switch on. This group tried to turn a switch on last year. It didn’t work. You can say it’s a different group but the personnel a lot of it is the same,” Sutter said emphatically.
With six games remaining for the Devils, three at home and three on the road, there is not much time left for the team to get back into the winning form they had just a few weeks ago.
The Rangers’ playoff hopes may still crash, but they are showing more signs of life than their rivals across the Hudson River.
“Five in a row is five in a row. Doesn’t matter if you play well, you play poorly, you score a lot of goals or you give up a lot of goals. Five in a row in this league is unacceptable,” Langenbrunner said.