The New York Rangers survived an early 3-1 deficit, scoring six goals unanswered to post a win over the rival New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium, the first of two games the Rangers will play in the iconic venue this week.
Devils left winger Patrik Elias scored two goals in the first eleven minutes, the second patiently set up by Jaromir Jagr, who passed Mario Lemieux for 10th place on the all-time assists list. Travis Zajac would put home a rebound from a Mark Fayne shot to make it 3-1 Devils with less than four minutes to play in the first period. That is where the good feelings ended for New Jersey.
Less than minutes after Zubrus’s tally, the Rangers won an offensive zone faceoff that Mark Staal would gather and throw towards the net. The shot managed to trickle past goaltender Martin Brodeur. The Devils entered the first intermission with their lead trimmed to one, unaware of the impending nightmare that was the second period.
The Rangers used their blistering speed to catch the Devils out of position time and time again in the second period, generating countless odd-man rushes and subsequent scoring chances. Three minutes in, defenseman John Moore and left winger Mats Zuccarello led a 2-on-1 breakaway, resulting in Moore sliding the puck to center, catching the braking Zuccarello’s skate and deflecting into the back of the net. Ten minutes later, the Rangers had another 2-on-1 led by Zuccarello after an ill-advised pinch attempt by Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas. Derick Brassard sent the puck cross-ice to Zuccarello, who again buried the goal, his 15th of the season.
About a minute later, Carl Hagelin used his speed to find space in the Rangers offensive zone, where he threw the puck on net. The shot caught both the Devils Marek Zidlicky and the Rangers Brad Richards before finding its way into the net. The goal was credited to Hagelin. Three goals in the period not enough for New York, they were given a 3-on-1 rush after Devils defenseman Andy Greene was checked to the ice. Derek Stepan sent the puck to Rick Nash, who scored to give him at least one goal in each of his last five games. The second period carnage concluded with the Rangers third goal on their last three shots.
Martin Brodeur, having surrendered six goals on just 21 shots, was pulled for Cory Schneider before the start of the third period. The Devils’ prayers to find enough offense to tie the game went unanswered, and the game was summarized in the period by Travis Zajac holding Derek Stepan on a breakaway attempt, granting him a penalty shot, which Stepan buried to give the Rangers a 7-3 lead. The score would stand.
Straying from the previous night’s 3-0 Stadium Series game focused on defense, the Rangers and Devils lit up the scoreboard to thrill the fans who had braved the cold and snow to see the open-air rivalry game. Fans who attended are likely thinking of it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the New York Rangers have to believe otherwise: they play in Yankee Stadium once again Wednesday against the streaking New York Islanders. Yet the two Yankee Stadium games in four days somehow does not make either matchup less special to the Rangers or the NHL.