The New Jersey Devils (18-14-1) let one slip away in a 4-1 loss at home to the New York Rangers (20-9-4). Despite having an early lead and generating numerous scoring chances the Devils failed to capitalize on the momentum, ultimately costing them two huge divisional points.
The rivals came out swinging, literally as Cam Janssen and Mike Rupp dropped the gloves immediately following the opening face-off. The lengthy bout seemed to energize the Devils as they dictated much of the play in the first 20 minutes but that’s where it ended for New Jersey.
Travis Zajac put the Devils up 1-0 jamming in a rebound in front of the Rangers net. It was Zajac’s first goal since returning form off season achilles surgery. That would be the last puck the Devils put past Rangers netminder Henrik Lunqvist. Lundqvist who seems to always play well in New Jersey lowered his career goals against average to 1.85 against the Hudson foes.
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The one goal scored by the Devils was the lowest output since since their last loss on December 10. New Jersey had scored 11 goals in the previous two games but were without leading scorer Patrik Elias who sat out due to illness.
Marian Gaborik picked up two goals and reached 600 NHL points with his first goal. Gaborik also picked up the assist on Artem Anisimov’s second-period equalizer that knotted the game at one goal apiece.
The real back breaker was Carl Hegelin’s short-handed goal late in the third period. With New Jersey trailing 2-1 the Rangers took and penalty giving the Devils an opportunity to pull even. However a costly turnover at the blueline sent Hagelin in on Martin Brodeur whom he beat glove side to stretch the lead to 3-1. The shorthand goal against was the tenth surrendered by New Jersey this season by far the worst in the NHL.
The loss dropped the Devils five points behind the Rangers and Penguins who also won. The Eastern Conference has quite a logjam developing for the last three playoff positions. Only four points separate the sixth spot from twelfth.
New Jersey is back at the Prudential Center Friday to face the Washington Capitals before taking a couple days off for the Christmas Holiday.
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