New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur outdueled Rangers counterpart Henrik Lundqvist, and that wasn’t lost on New York coach Alain Vigneault.
Brodeur, the winningest goalie in NHL history, gutted out a 3-2 Devils victory over Lundqvist and the Rangers on Tuesday night. New Jersey took three one-goal leads and made the last one stick after Dainius Zubrus scored with 2:55 remaining.
”We tied it up in the third, and we got unfortunate on all their three goals,” Vigneault said. ”Their goaltender made some big saves at key times.”
One shot that eluded Lundqvist was singled out by Vigneault – Ryan Carter’s second of the game and season that gave the Devils a 2-1 lead with 46.1 seconds left in the second period.
Carter beat speedy Rangers forward Carl Hagelin to Adam Larsson’s dump-in and cut in on Lundqvist. He sent a quick shot through the crease and inside the left post.
When asked about Hagelin’s role in that goal, Vigneault seemingly shifted the focus onto Lundqvist.
”I’m not quite sure what happened there,” Vigneault said. ”It was an easy first man on the puck, but mind you it’s a routine save.”
Zubrus made it 3-2 when he put in a loose puck after his shot was blocked by defenseman Dan Girardi. That gave Brodeur a third straight win.
”Any win at the Garden is a great win,” New Devils owner Josh Harris said.
Girardi had gotten the Rangers even at 2 when he scored his first of the season with 7:42 left. Girardi banked in a shot from the blue line off the skate of Devils defenseman Adam Larsson, who turned 21 Tuesday.
”Just an overall gutsy effort, and our goalie was fantastic,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. ”I think we’ve gotten nice starting goaltending for the last three weeks.”
Brodeur, who earlier this season conceded his starting job to newcomer Cory Schneider started and won for the third time in four games. His previous two outings resulted in shutouts.
The 41-year-old Brodeur, who made 33 saves, also allowed a second-period goal to Marc Staal in earning his NHL-record 674th win.
”I love to play against these guys, and I’m sure they feel the same way,” said Brodeur, who has beaten the Rangers 48 times.
However, he wasn’t ready to claim the No. 1 job back.
”I’ll leave it to the coaches to make those decisions,” he said. ”I’ll never say boo about stuff like that. Karma goes a long way. I have learned that from the past. I’ll never ask for anything here. I’ll always be ready to play.”
Schneider shut out the Rangers in the previous meeting in New Jersey on Oct. 19.
Lundqvist made 25 saves for New York, which went 0 for 5 on the power play. The Rangers (9-9) had won six of seven to get over .500 for the first time this season.
He kept it a one-goal deficit with 7:45 left when he stopped former teammate Jaromir Jagr, who came in alone after leaving the penalty box.
”We didn’t give anything to them, and we fought all night,” said Jagr, who earlier Tuesday told his teammates they would win 3-2. ”We had a lot of chances to break it open, especially me. I should have scored on that breakaway, and it would have been 3-1, and game over.”
But that save wasn’t enough for the Rangers.
”We came out and did the things that we needed to do,” Lundqvist said. ”We came back into the game and gave us a chance to win. I had a good feeling, especially when we tied it up, but it’s over and it’s a tough one.
”A lot of good things, but we needed to find a way to win there, and we didn’t.”
Carter netted his first goal with another aggressive charge. He shoved a shot in close that appeared to hit the skate of backchecking forward J.T. Miller and Lundqvist’s stick before sneaking inside the left post at 6:37.
”That’s the way it works sometimes,” Carter said. ”You get a few in on shots you might not think are going in. I had some clean shots, some dream shots, and he stopped them.”
The Rangers bounced right back off a rush by Mats Zuccarello, who curled behind the Devils net and backhanded a pass to Staal for a one-timer from above the left circle. The defenseman’s second of the season snapped Brodeur’s shutout streak at 191 minutes, 21 seconds.
Brodeur turned aside a hard drive by Derek Stepan less than 5 minutes in, and then stonewalled Zuccarello twice in the crease. Chris Kreider put the puck into the net, but after the whistle was blown.
Brodeur thrust his glove into the face of the 5-foot-7 Zuccarello during a stoppage, and even made a save with his mask, mimicking Lundqvist’s style.
”I wanted to match him up,” Brodeur said. ”I just saw it last second, and I just reacted, and it went off my head. It was a Lundqvist save, I guess.”
NOTES: Rangers LW Rick Nash (concussion) skated for the fourth straight day and was cleared to return to practice on Wednesday. He has missed 15 games. … Zuccarello and defenseman Ryan McDonagh both extended point streaks to a career-best four games with assists. … Devils LW Patrik Elias missed his sixth straight game due to upper body soreness. … New Jersey D Anton Volchenkov was injured in the first period and didn’t return.