NEWARK, N.J. – Kevin Weekes had little to do in the first period, then was overwhelmed in the second.
He didn’t make it off the bench for the third. Michal Rozsival and Nikolai Zherdev scored during two-man advantages in New York’s four-goal second period, and the Rangers routed Weekes and the Martin Brodeur-less New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Wednesday night.
For only the third time in 101 meetings with the Devils over 15 years, the Rangers faced a goalie other than Brodeur and made the most of the opportunity.
“He is such a mainstay and you don’t think of the Devils without him,” Rangers captain Chris Drury said. “We’re just trying to beat the whole team, not worrying about the goalie.”
The Rangers have done that lately in a rivalry that has shifted dramatically in their favour. New York is 9-0-1 against New Jersey since Feb. 22, 2007.
That trend seemed off when the Devils outshot the Rangers 13-5 in the first period and led 1-0. New Jersey started the second with a full power play, but Henrik Lundqvist was strong in goal and kept the Rangers in it.
Rozsival, Chris Drury, and Lauri Korpikoski – with his first NHL regular-season goal – scored in a span of 2:08 to turn a one-goal deficit into a 3-1 lead before 10 minutes elapsed in the second. Zherdev added New York’s second 5-on-3 goal with 4:10 left to make it 4-1.
“You could kind of tell the game turned,” Lundqvist said. “We started skating more, we got more confidence. One goal can change everything, one save can change everything.”
Zherdev added his second of the night 9:51 into the third against backup goalie Scott Clemmensen.
“At times he looked shaky,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said of Weekes. “I know he had lots of shots in the second, but I thought he was fighting it. I also felt the team needed a shake-up.”
The Rangers, playing without injured top-line centre Scott Gomez, took over by firing 20 shots at Weekes in the second period. New York also had 20 shots in the second of its previous game, a 3-2 shootout loss to Edmonton on Monday night.
“I don’t know what it is. We’ve been slow starters this year,” Lundqvist said. “We did a lot of good things in the first period … but then we really stepped up in the second.”
Weekes has the unenviable task of replacing Brodeur, the four-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie, expected to be out about four months due to a torn biceps muscle in his left arm. Weekes, the winning goalie for the Rangers on Nov. 5, 2005 – the last time New York played the Devils without Brodeur – had allowed only nine goals in four games since Brodeur’s injury on Nov. 1.
“It’s never pleasant,” Weekes said of being pulled. “We were on our heels the whole second period. … They were making plays and their power play was hot.”
Not counting the game when Brodeur got hurt, the injury-ravaged Devils are 1-4 without him. Clemmensen, who took the 3-1 loss to Edmonton on Sunday, started the third period. Weekes finished with 21 saves.
“We’ve got to find a way to stay in the hunt,” Sutter said. “We’re not going to use excuses. The easiest thing to do is say it’s injuries. The bottom line is, the guys who are playing have to be rock solid.”
Things looked good for the Devils, who took a 1-0 lead 7:04 in on Travis Zajac’s second of the season. Jamie Langenbrunner scored 4:19 into the third, but by then it was 4-2.
The Devils paraded to the penalty box in the second period, swinging momentum to the Rangers. Mike Rupp and Bryce Salvador went off 31 seconds apart, leading to Rozsival’s hard shot that hit the right post and caromed in off Weekes’ right skate at 7:45.
Drury then ripped a drive from above the right circle that beat Weekes inside the far post at 9:24, and Korpikoski scored 29 seconds later. He ripped in a one-timer from one knee after he tapped his stick on the ice to call for the puck from linemate Dan Fritsche, who was on the goal line.
“We’re playing hard and doing a lot of good things, but we’re making too many mistakes,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “They’re killing us and we’re not capitalizing on our opportunities.”
Lundqvist robbed Dainius Zubrus in the second period from point-blank range with his pad while using defenceman Dan Girardi’s stick – one with the wrong curve – and New York trailing 1-0. He finished with 30 saves and has allowed fewer than three goals in 14 of 16 games.
Notes: Gomez is day to day with a leg injury. … Devils RW Brian Gionta and D Salvador both returned after missing one game. … Korpikoski scored his only other NHL goal in Game 5 of a playoff series versus Pittsburgh last season. … Fritsche, Girardi and Nigel Dawes all had two assists for the Rangers, who recorded 42 shots.