The Devils have been the better team for 130 of the series’ first 180 minutes, but it is the Rangers who head into Monday night’s Game 4 at the Rock with a 2-1 series lead after taking a 3-0 win in Game 3.
“When you lose a game like this where you out-chance, out-play the other team for long stretches it’s easy to look at it under a microscope and say ‘oh boy, they had two greats shifts, that was the difference in the game,’” Pete DeBoer said after Game 3 Saturday afternoon at the Prudential Center. “We strung together six or seven great shifts, [but] we didn’t capitalize. That’s the story of the game.”
If the series was viewed as a goaltending showdown between Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur, then Game 3 was a referendum on their abilities. Both were brilliant in the spectacular mano-a-mano contest. Brodeur was at his contortionist best in making 19 stops, including a diving cross-crease save on Ryan Callahan along the goal line midway through the second period.
Lundqvist was better as he stole a game for his team. He made 36 saves to record his sixth career playoff shutout. The MVP and Vezina candidate got the Rangers to the second intermission deadlocked at 0-0 despite the Devils’ 45-20 advantage in shots.
Lundqvist’s two toughest saves came on Ilya Kovalchuk breakaways. The Rangers’ netminder was aided by the left post turning away a Marek Zidlicky drive during a Devils power play late in the third.
“Two breakaways, two-on-ones, we’ve got to find a way to score a goal,” DeBoer said. “The goalie was the difference.”
The Rangers were, in coach John Tortorella’s words, “too lackadaisical” in the game’s first 21 minutes which led to the coach having to use his only timeout to emphatically lecture the team.
“I don’t know if they responded to [the timeout],” Tortorella said. “I thought we played better the second half of the period. We were going to get hurt there. We were going to get scored on because we were too lackadaisical. For what reason, I have no idea.”
Added Lundqvist: “I felt it was a good timeout by Torts. They came out flying in the second, created big chances.”
Still, the Rangers were unable to sustain any offensive-zone pressure until early in the third period. Then, much like Game 1, the Rangers took control. The forechecking and cycling of Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin caused Bryce Salvador to take a hooking penalty at 2:11.
Dan Girardi’s power play wrist shot goal after Brad Richards’ offensive zone faceoff win 1:08 later gave the Rangers all the offense they would need. Chris Kreider’s re-direction of Ryan McDonagh’s point shot 1:57 later increased the Rangers’ lead to 2-0 and ended any pretense of drama.
Ryan Callahan added an empty net goal with 2:13 left to send most of the announced 17,625 towards the exits. The goal was Callahan’s fourth of the playoffs and his first in seven games. He had three shots on goal, three hits, a blocked shot and an assist in 19:58 of ice time, including 4:44 shorthanded and 1:23 on the power play.
“It’s amazing what goals can do, no matter how they’re scored,” Richards said. “He wants to be part of it. You forget sometimes how valuable [he is with] what he does all over the ice. He wants to do everything.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.