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Elias’ shootout goal ends epic clash between rivals - Metro US

Elias’ shootout goal ends epic clash between rivals

Simply, it was the best Devils-Rangers regular season game ever played.

For 65 minutes, the cross-river rivals engaged each other in the type of game Gary Bettman envisioned post-lockout. Both teams conspired to skate, to hit, to level shots at impenetrable netminders as a sellout crowd roared its approval.

Then Patrik Elias lifted a wrist shot past Henrik Lundqvist in the fourth round of the Rangers’ 1-0 shootout loss to the Devils at the Garden Tuesday night. The shootout, though, was almost an irrelevancy. This was not one of 82 games. This was not a mid-January game.

This Devils-Rangers game was one for the ages.

“It was fun to play. It was a 0-0 game but there was a lot of action out there,” Lundqvist said. “I just (knew) it was a tight game and I couldn’t afford any mistakes.”

Lundqvist and his counterpart, Martin Brodeur, did not make many mistakes, as they turned away a combined 96 shots. Lundqvist tied a career high with 45 saves and Brodeur stopped a career-high 51 shots to earn his 107th shutout. The shutout was Brodeur’s NHL-leading sixth of the season.

“There were a lot of shots and a lot of chances for both teams. Both goalies were great,” Jacques Lemaire offered after his team improved to 32-11-1 this season. Only the Blackhawks, with 66, have more points than the Devils’ 65. The Rangers fell 22-17-7, but are in a virtual tie with struggling Boston for fifth place in the East with 51 points.

There was an intense vibe at the Garden, as there always is for Devils-Rangers. But as the game progressed, as the two teams traded chances and hits—33 for the Rangers and 25 for the Devils—the supportive, mostly partisan crowd grew louder. The Rangers acknowledged that they felt the energy emanating from the seats.

“The fans got their money’s worth,” said Erik Christensen. “I’ve sat up in the press box in this building and it’s loud all the time. But when something happens and they start roaring, the building shakes pretty good.”

It shook, then roared its approval when the Rangers killed a 5-on-3 power play midway through the second period. Despite Christensen (roughing) and Brandon Dubinsky (slashing) in the box, the Devils could not get pucks on net—Lemaire estimated that his team was only able to get “one shot’’—before Ryan Callahan dove and swatted the puck out of the offensive zone.

The Garden became unglued when it appeared, for the briefest of moments, that Rangers’ rookie center Artem Anisimov had solved Brodeur later in the period. Anisimov raised his arms in celebration, then dropped them as play continued.

At that point, the match morphed into a “Can You Top This?” display by both goaltenders. Lundqvist stopped 32 shots in the second and third periods while Brodeur stuffed 31 chances.

“It was The Night of The Goaltenders,” offered Callahan. “Hank played great for us. Marty played great for them. You have to tip your hat to Marty, he played a great game.”

John Tortorella used the word “frustrated” to describe how he felt about leaving a point on the Garden ice. The Rangers are 8-1-5 in their last 14 games and earned 23 points in that stretch. “If we keep doing the things that we’ve been doing for the last little bit, we’ll stay consistent in getting our points,” said Tortorella, who expressed his discontent with the game being decided in the shootout. Elias’ wrister was the lone goal in the one-on-one.

“Those type of games…I think it’s a bit of a gimmick. When you have two teams play that way…I just think, I have different thoughts on how to end those games and it’s not with that,” Tortorella said. “Especially a game like that. Jersey-Rangers and then you finish with a gimmick. I’ve never liked it.”

While making his feelings clear on the shootout, Tortorella was equally adamant about what he—and those in the Garden last night—bore witness to.

“It was a hell of a game,” Tortorella said. “I thought we played really good. We played a hell of a hockey game.”

Yes, it was.

NOTES:

The Rangers’ next home game is Thursday against Ottawa.

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The Devils’ have an interesting slate of upcoming road games. They will be in Phoenix on Thursday, Colorado Saturday afternoon and Long Island Monday afternoon before returning home next Wednesday for a match against Florida.

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The Sean-and-Marty Show had a brief revival during the second period. After a whistle, Sean Avery skated over to Martin Brodeur and the two rivals exchanged words. Prior to the faceoff for the 5-on-3, referees Justin St. Pierre and Dan Marouelli talked to Avery and Tortorella. When asked what was said, Tortorella responded by saying “none of your business.”

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New York Mets players Daniel Murphy, Mike Pelfrey and Omir Santos were at the game. When introduced to the crowd, the trio received a mixture of polite applause and boos.

You can follow us on Twitter @DenisGorman

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