The second installment of the Hudson River Rumble was a wild, mean-edged affair befitting two rivals separated by 10 miles and a history of mutual revulsion.
The season series is tied at one game apiece after the Rangers' 3-2 win over the Devils at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night. The Rangers have won consecutive games and took sole possession of the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Last night’s win also snapped a three-game losing streak on the road.
“That’s a big win,” Ryan Callahan said. “[It] means a lot. [We took] the next step [after beating Carolina Monday night]. Big win for us. Big two points for us.”
Against an opponent whose pedigree required everyone to contribute, it was the Rangers' best players who did the heavy lifting. Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves, J.T. Miller looked to create offense at every opportunity, Michael Del Zotto finished with two points, and the top line of Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik combined for 14 shot attempts and a goal.
“I thought we stuck with it,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said. “I’m happy with the team.”
Prior to Monday night’s win over the Hurricanes, Tortorella reformed the top line of Nash, Richards and Gaborik. The trio was creative and generated chances throughout the match against the Southeast Division leaders. They did much the same against the Devils.
“Generated [chances],” Tortorella said of the line. “[They were] getting looks. [They] did some good things.”
Nash’s goal 7:25 into the second period was the game winner. Nash ripped a drive from the right faceoff circle past Hedberg for the go-ahead goal. The goal was Nash’s team-leading 10th of the season, and it broke a 2-2 tie.
“[I] think we caught them in a bad change,” Nash said of the game-winner. “[The defenseman] was cheating [for the pass] so I thought to shoot. Tonight they seemed to be going in.”
The rivals alternated goals in the first period. Del Zotto (11:49) opened the scoring with a shorthanded deflection and Carl Hagelin gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead with his eighth of the season.
Del Zotto’s goal marked only the 11th time in 29 games that the Rangers scored a game-opening goal.
“I’ll take it,” Del Zotto said. The goal, his third of the season, was his first since Jan. 29. “I feel like I had my chances.”
But the leads were short-lived as Travis Zajac potted a power-play goal at 15:15 and Anton Volchenkov added an even strength marker at 17:13.
“We wanted to be aggressive,” Del Zotto said. “We had some chances.”
That was all Lundqvist would allow for the rest of the game.
The reigning Vezina winner was routinely spectacular in the second period as he stopped all 12 Devils shots, including an Ilya Kovalchuk bullet and a Steve Bernier backhander on the same power play which kept the game tied at 2-2.
Nash broke the deadlock exactly 22 seconds after Lundqvist stopped Bernier.
“[He] gives us momentum,” Nash said of Lundqvist. “That’s what he did in that second period.”
“He does a pretty damn good job [of stopping shots],” Tortorella said of Lundqvist. “He’s focused right in his little world.”
The Devils are 0-2-1 in their last three games.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.