The Rangers were not the only team in the Eastern Conference Final to rise to the defense of a teammate. This time, though, the protection offered was for something that did not happen off the ice.
Devils captain Zach Parise chose not to speak after the Rangers took a 2-1 series lead with a 3-0 win in Game 3 Saturday afternoon at the Rock.
“He's a grown man,” Ilya Kovalchuk said. “That's his decision. He's a great captain and he's our leader. So I'm pretty sure you guys know him as a great human being and great leader and sportsman. So he chose to do that and we support him 100 percent.”
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Parise only has one assist in the first three games of the series against the Rangers. He last scored a goal in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Flyers. Parise has recorded nine points (four goals and five assists) in 15 playoff games.
“Zach always gives you the same thing: 100 percent effort, 100 percent team play,” Devils head coach Peter DeBoer said. “[He] could easily have two or three goals in the series and we'd be praising him for how well he's played. Like he did against Philadelphia. So it's going to come with him. I've got no concerns about Zach or his play.”
Outplayed, but not outscored
The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-1, but have been outplayed by a wide margin in the first three games, especially in the first period.
Through three games, the Devils have outshot the Rangers 27-16 in the first period. Despite the wide disparity in shots, the Rangers haveentered the first intermission trailing only once, on Ilya Kovalchuk's game-opening power play goal in Game 2.
“It’s a bit of both. They’re coming out really hard, and you have to give credit to them for how hard they’re working. But at the same time our game isn’t where it needs to be, especially our starts,” Michael Del Zotto said. “We know what has to be done. You can never question this team’s will, no matter what happens. We’re a team that’s never going to give up. That’s the character of our hockey club.
“I guess it’s those battles on the wall make a difference in getting the puck out and getting [on] the forecheck [instead of] behind hemmed in another couple of shifts. Board battles are going to be huge the rest of the series,” Del Zotto said. “They have been already.”
King Henrik reigns
Henrik Lundqvist is authoring one of the great playoff runs in Rangers history. The goaltender is 10-7 with a 1.57 goals against average, .942 save percentage and three shutouts. The three shutouts lead all NHL goaltenders in the playoffs, while his wins, GAA and save percentage are second most, behind only Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick.
“Our goaltender is growing,” John Tortorella said. “Growing as a player and [as] a person.”
The Devils enter Game 4 with a 9-6 overall record in the playoffs, but only a 5-5 record at the Rock.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.