NEW YORK – The New Jersey Devils needed fewer than three minutes to wipe out a week’s worth of frustration.
After back-to-back shutouts on either side of the Christmas break, the Devils busted out early and earned a rare road win over the New York Rangers.
Travis Zajac had a goal and two assists, and Patrik Elias and Zach Parise both added a goal and an assist for New Jersey, which snapped a team-record scoreless drought in a 4-2 victory Saturday night.
“We didn’t score for two games, but it’s not like we didn’t have chances,” Elias said. “Even though we played yesterday, we wanted to come out strong and get as many shots as possible.
“Obviously, it helps when you score right away.”
The Devils had gone seven periods without a goal – spanning a New Jersey record of 159 minutes 18 seconds – before Brian Rolston ripped a slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist 2:54 in during a power play.
Elias, off a feed from Zajac, made it 2-0 just 1:20 later with a short-handed tally.
Zajac also fired a hard drive by Lundqvist in the second period to restore the Devils’ two-goal lead, 3-1. Scott Clemmensen finished with 31 saves for his 12th win in place of injured regular Martin Brodeur.
“Getting that one on the power play was a big boost for us,” Zajac said. “We know we can score. … We just wanted to play hard, and it was a great effort.”
The Devils are 13-4-1 in their past 18 games.
Nigel Dawes and defenceman Dmitri Kalinin scored for the Rangers, who lost their third straight (0-2-1) after a three-game winning streak.
“We’ve had something creep into our game, and that’s a lack of commitment to the detail of playing,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “We end up cheating because we’re not a high-scoring team. Until we get our heads around winning 2-1, we’re going to have nights like this all the time.”
Parise made it 4-2 four minutes after Kalinin got the Rangers within a goal.
New Jersey lost 2-0 to Boston on Tuesday and 1-0 against Pittsburgh on Friday – both at home – but enjoyed some rare success at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers, who hadn’t playing since blowing a four-goal lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to Washington on Tuesday – were on a five-game home winning streak against the Devils.
“We played well right from the start,” Clemmensen said. “We felt like we played well (this week) and had nothing to really show for it. Tonight was just what we needed, coming to play our rival in their building.”
The Rangers chased all night but couldn’t catch the Devils, who have won two straight against New York after dropping 11 consecutive regular-season games to their biggest rival.
New York fell behind 5-1 at New Jersey on Dec. 12 before rallying to tie it in the third. Elias gave the lead back to the Devils 11 seconds later in an 8-5 win.
“It’s the same thing that’s been bugging us all year – 60 minutes,” Rangers captain Chris Drury said. “We had spurts of it tonight. We got momentum. Then we took a penalty to get out of the momentum.”
Rolston got the New Jersey offence going early when his drive from the centre of the blue line sailed in for his fourth goal overall and third since returning Dec. 4 from an 18-game absence caused by an ankle injury.
New Jersey took advantage of a power play that was created when the Rangers were caught with too many men. They tried to make up for it when Mike Rupp went off for interference less than a minute later, but the Devils took advantage.
Zajac stripped Brandon Dubinsky of the puck along the wall and got it out of the Rangers zone as Drury pinched at the point. Drury landed a check in front of the benches, but Zajac spun and delivered a pass to Elias, who cut into the New York end alone. Elias snapped in his 17th at 4:14, the NHL-worst 11th short-handed goal allowed by the Rangers.
“Awful. It’s brain-dead hockey,” Renney said. “You try and cheat your way to a win right off the bat. If we don’t start the hockey game down 2-0, we have a chance to win.”
New York cut the deficit to 2-1 before that power play ended on Dawes’ fifth goal at 5:14.
Elias and Zajac connected again, 10 seconds after another power play ended. Elias dropped a pass to Zajac, who blistered in a shot off the crossbar with 8:48 left in the second. The Rangers couldn’t do anything with a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 39 seconds late in the period.
Kalinin netted his first goal with the Rangers and first in 56 games, dating to Feb. 1 with Buffalo, 8:59 into the third to make it 3-2. Rookie defenceman Corey Potter, recalled from Hartford (AHL) earlier Saturday, set up Kalinin for the slap-shot goal.
Notes: The Devils had 17 shots in the first period. The Rangers responded with 17 in the second. … Rangers D Michal Rozsival (family reasons) sat out. He was replaced by Potter, who earned his first NHL point in his second career game. … Devils D Bryce Salvador (ear infection) missed his fifth consecutive game.