NEWARK, N.J. – While players such as Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle are picking up the scoring slack created by injuries to key New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils still haven’t figured out how to get their season going.
Now 15 games in, the question might soon turn to if instead of when.
Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves for his second shutout of the season and Dubinsky scored two goals to lift the Rangers to a 3-0 victory over the Devils on Friday night.
“We played hard. We competed hard. We’re just not generating enough offence,” downtrodden first-year Devils coach John MacLean said after his team fell to 4-10-1 overall and 0-5-1 at home.
New Jersey has scored an NHL-low 25 goals, and with nine points leads only Buffalo in the Eastern Conference. The Devils had the puck much more than the Rangers and outshot them 33-20, but had no answers against Lundqvist.
The Devils had only two power-play chances and were short-handed for five minutes in the third following David Clarkson’s boarding major.
“I thought we were the better team, dominating the play for most of the game, and then we don’t give ourselves a chance to get back in the third period,” frustrated forward Patrik Elias said. “We lost the game right there.”
Dubinsky scored an even-strength goal in the first and added a short-handed goal in the third during New Jersey’s first power play to tie him for the NHL lead with 10 goals. That has helped offset the losses of Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan, who missed his first game this season.
Brian Boyle scored in the second to give Lundqvist more than enough offence to beat Johan Hedberg, who subbed for injured Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
The Devils, who returned home after a 2-4 trip, have been hit hard by injuries, including one to top scorer Zach Parise (knee) that will keep him out for three months. Brodeur thought he would be able to play after sustaining a bruised elbow in Chicago on Wednesday night, but the pain wouldn’t allow it.
Lundqvist stood tall for New York, which rebounded after being beaten 4-1 at Philadelphia on Thursday. He was sharp against several Devils flurries in which they controlled the puck and play in the New York zone. It was Lundqvist’s second shutout in four games and 26th in the NHL.
“After last night, it was important for me and for all of us to get a good solid game,” Lundqvist said. “I don’t think we played all that bad, but I felt that I had to play a lot better.”
New Jersey was blanked for the second time in three games. The Devils were trying to build off Wednesday’s 5-3 victory at Chicago, but failed in their attempt to win consecutive games for the first time this season.
“We’re disappointed after a loss every time,” Elias said. “You cannot go into a hockey game down all the time. You have to clear your minds and go into a game with a clear head.”
Dubinsky opened the scoring 7:35 in when Artem Anisimov flubbed a shot in front, but nudged the puck over to Dubinsky, who one-timed in a shot.
The Rangers scored a power-play goal with 35.5 seconds left in the second to make it 2-0.
After Hedberg made a spinning save while seated in the crease to deny Todd White, he couldn’t prevent the Rangers from doubling the lead. Dubinsky won a faceoff in the left circle to Anisimov, who moved the puck to Dan Girardi at the left point. Girardi glided to the centre of the blue line and unleashed a drive that Boyle deflected in the slot with his back to the net.
Boyle, in his fourth NHL season, set a career high with his fifth goal. He had four in each of the previous three seasons.
“I’m going to try to forget about it so I can keep going,” Boyle said with a laugh. “I don’t want to stop at five.”
Even with a long-awaited power play, the Devils fell behind 3-0 with poor coverage. White raced in on a breakaway, and was denied by Hedberg. But the puck bounded behind the net and Dubinsky nudged it in at the right post 3:41 into the third.
New Jersey star forward Ilya Kovalchuk displayed his frustration by leaning over the crossbar in disgust.
“Lundqvist played a great game and we didn’t have any traffic in front of him,” said Kovalchuk, who has three goals since signing his 15-year, US$100-million contract. “All the shots were from outside, and you know we are not going to score like that.”
NOTES: Boyle needed only 13 games to establish his career high in goals. … The Devils outshot the Rangers 11-4 in the first and 12-8 in the second. New York managed only two shots in the first period at Philadelphia on Thursday and 21 overall. … Callahan sat out due to soreness, but coach John Tortorella expects him to play Sunday against St. Louis. … Devils D Anton Volchenkov returned after missing 12 games (neck) and replaced D Colin White (flu). RW Stephen Gionta made his NHL debut.