NEW YORK – Henrik Lundqvist turned in one of his best efforts of the season, giving the slumping New York Rangers a badly needed lift.
Lundqvist made 41 saves and Ryan Callahan sparked a three-goal outburst in the second period as the Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 3-1 on Saturday night.
Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury scored for the Rangers, who ended a two-game losing streak with only their second win in the last nine games.
But the key for the Rangers was Lundqvist, who ended a personal six-game losing streak and improved his record to 17-6-5 against New Jersey.
“I just tried to battle the last two weeks,” said Lundqvist. “I have been working hard. It was an intense game, fun to play in and big relief to get a win at home. It is a big one for us to get, in a lot of ways.”
Playing, and beating, the Devils added a little extra spice.
“Obviously, everybody in the room gets pretty jacked up playing against the Devils,” Callahan said. “I think Hank was. When you know he is on his game, we’re going to have a great chance to win. It was uplifting to see Hank play like that.”
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire had no complaints with his team’s effort. He chalked the loss up to Lundqvist.
“Their goalie was great,” Lemaire said. “He was there at the right moments. When there were great chances, he made the save.”
Dainius Zubrus scored for the Atlantic Division-leading Devils, who have one win in their last four games.
Callahan had a goal and an assist as the Rangers struck three times in a span of 2:39 to snap a scoreless deadlock. Callahan got the Rangers going at the 7:20 mark, making a hard pass across the slot that Gaborik deflected for a power-play goal. It was the team-leading 35th goal for Gaborik.
New York kept swarming the New Jersey zone, scoring again 56 seconds later. This time it was Callahan getting an unassisted goal, picking off a weak clearing attempt by Devils defenceman Mike Mottau and firing the puck past Martin Brodeur.
Drury added the third goal, beating Brodeur from between the circles.
Lundqvist did his part earlier in the period, making big stops on Ilya Kovalchuk and Jamie Langenbrunner with the Devils on the power play.
In the third, Lundqvist held the Devils off until the 11:11 mark when Zubrus scored. Before that, Lundqvist made consecutive stops in a bang-bang sequence with 13 minutes left, stopping Kovalchuk’s drive and Mottau’s swipe at the rebound. The Devils fired 20 shots in the final period.
“You always think you can do more,” said Langenbrunner, the Devils’ captain. “We missed a couple of opportunities but Lundqvist did play well. We battled hard and got a lot of shots, especially in the third.”
The Devils outshot the Rangers 10-7 in the scoreless first period. Lundqvist made one of the best stops in the final minute, gloving Rob Niedermayer’s bid on a two-on-one short-handed break.
NOTES: The Devils activated Patrik Elias from the injured reserve list. He missed 10 games with a concussion. … It didn’t take long for hostilities to break out: Andrew Peters of the Devils and Brandon Prust fought 3:40 in. They staged a rematch later in the period at 12:41. Kovalchuk and the Rangers’ Sean Avery exchanged punches in the Devils zone with 2:16 left. They each got double minor penalties for roughing … Gaborik has six goals in the last five games. … The win evened the season series between the teams at 2-2 and marked the first time the home team came out on top. They will play twice more this year.