The Atlantic Division leaders stayed in striking range of the top spot in the Eastern Conference and pushed the Rangers closer to an early summer vacation. Jamie Langenbrunner scored the decisive goal in the shootout after Zach Parise got New Jersey even in the third period, and the Devils beat the Rangers for the second time in three nights, winning 3-2 on Thursday.
Henrik Lundqvist blocked Langenbrunner’s drive with his glove, but the puck bounced behind him and went in.
“I saw him get a piece of it,” Langenbrunner said. “I thought he might reach and still grab it. It kind of trickled over. It’s all the weightlifting I do.”
The Devils remained seven points ahead of Pittsburgh in the division race and five behind Buffalo for the No. 1 seed in the East playoffs.
“The last two games have had a lot at stake,” coach Claude Julien said after New Jersey’s eighth win in 10 games. “For them, battling for a playoff spot and for us to stay in the hunt.”
Petr Prucha had a chance to tie in the first extra round of the shootout, but rang a shot off the crossbar.
“It beat me,” goalie Martin Brodeur said. “I got a little lucky.”
The Rangers wanted to make a stand against the Devils, the team that knocked them out with a first-round post-season sweep last year. They salvaged one point in two games, but still sit in 11th place in the East – five points behind Carolina and the playoff cutoff.
New York, with 21 games remaining, will have to decide whether to be sellers or buyers before Tuesday’s trading deadline.
“I think we can win with the team we’ve got, but I said that 60 games ago,” coach Tom Renney said. “We’re better suited for the playoffs than a year ago. We’ve got an uphill battle, but we got a valuable point.”
Parise forced overtime and completed New Jersey’s rally from a 2-0 deficit with his 25th goal, scoring with 7:13 left in regulation. Brian Rafalski scored in the second period for the Devils, who won the season series 5-2-1 – including two shootout victories and one tiebreaker loss.
Marcel Hossa and Prucha scored for the Rangers, 4-2-2 in their last eight.
“I am happy with the way we are playing,” captain Jaromir Jagr said. “There have been a lot of points that have been given away in the last few weeks.”
Brodeur earned his 38th win while making his 31st straight start for the Devils, who beat New York 2-1 on Tuesday.
New Jersey nearly ended it in overtime after Jagr was called for interference on Brodeur, but Lundqvist knocked Scott Gomez’s drive away with his left arm.
Parise tied it moments after Lundqvist used the shaft of his goal stick to turn away Patrik Elias’ shot during a 2-on-0 with Gomez.
Langenbrunner deftly tipped the puck into the Rangers zone while facing the other way. Travis Zajac ripped a shot that Lundqvist knocked aside, but the rebound came right to Parise for the return shot.
The Rangers took a 2-0 lead on Prucha’s 15th goal during their first of two power plays at 9:20 of the second.
Rafalski cut New Jersey’s deficit in half 4:14 later, the defenceman’s seventh goal this season and fifth in five games.
Jagr stick-handled through the zone, cutting so hard inside the blue-line that New Jersey forwards John Madden and Langenbrunner smacked into each other while chasing him.
But the Devils rushed the puck up, and Rafalski let go a shot from above the right circle that clipped the stick blade of defenceman Marek Malik and beat Lundqvist. Madden and Langenbrunner earned assists on the otherwise embarrassing shift.
The Rangers, who began a six-game homestand that will go a long way in determining whether they make the playoffs, took a 1-0 lead on Hossa’s eighth. The 25-year-old forward scored his fifth goal in seven games despite a sore neck that made him a game-time decision.
Malik slipped a long pass to Hossa, who had just jumped on the ice and took advantage of a bad line change. He barely stayed onside and came in alone on Brodeur, beating him just 1:38 in.
The game had every bit of the postseason intensity as the Devils’ victory Tuesday. There were some scrums after the whistle, but players stayed in line.
Notes: Elias returned after missing Tuesday’s game with the flu. … Madden traded in his cage, which protected his injured face for three games, for a visor. … The Devils, the NHL’s least penalized team, took only three minors. … New York killed off a 5-on-3 disadvantage that spanned the first two periods.