NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — The Rangers don’t like being all even after two games, but they sure are used to it.
For the third straight series, the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded team has failed to build on an opening-game win, and now they have yielded home-ice advantage yet again. The Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals couldn’t make the most of it. The New Jersey Devils have other plans.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said after New York’s 3-2 loss on Wednesday night. “We just have to go into Jersey and try to get that next game. We can’t get down.”
The Rangers bounced back with Game 3 wins in both previous rounds. They will get their next chance Saturday in Newark.
Two things New York can probably count on are a close game and another series that goes the distance. The Rangers outlasted the Senators and Capitals in seven games to reach the conference finals for the first time since 1997. Of the Rangers’ 16 postseason games, 12 have been decided by one goal.
After posting the best regular-season record in the East, New York is only 9-7 in the playoffs.
“I think everyone’s mad more at the fact that we didn’t play as well as we could have,” Carl Hagelin said. “Hopefully we use it as fuel for the next game.”
With a two-day break between games, both teams will skip practice on Thursday before getting back on the ice Friday.
The Devils quickly changed the game plan from the opener. Instead of letting the Rangers block their shots, they decided to deflect some themselves. It worked twice. David Clarkson scored a tip-in goal off Adam Henrique’s shot 2:31 into the third period as New Jersey rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win.
“It’s a very hard building to play in, and 1-1 sounds much better than down 2-0,” Devils captain Zach Parise said. “We’re happy. We would have liked to have snuck out of here with two wins, but it didn’t happen. We’ll take 1-1.”
Before the game, the Rangers stressed how important it would be to grab a 2-0 lead, which would have been their first two-game edge in this postseason, but then didn’t provide the necessary effort to get it done.
“You need to improve as hockey team every game,” said succinct and disappointed coach John Tortorella. “A number of things. I’ll keep it in the room.”
Clarkson built off the momentum created by Ryan Carter’s deflected goal late in the second period that tied the game, 2-2. Ilya Kovalchuk had given the Devils a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal in the first. Defenseman Bryce Salvador added two assists, and Martin Brodeur stopped 23 saves for his 108th playoff win.
Clarkson has three goals this postseason, and every one has been a game-winner, including the series-clincher against Philadelphia in Game 5 of the second round.
“Mr. Clutch? I don’t know about that,” Clarkson said. “I’m going to skate up and down and finish the checks and just bounce off people. It’s just a great feeling to be able to contribute. To get a tip on that felt pretty good.”
New Jersey had 26 attempted shots blocked in Game 1, 5 more than they got through to goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The Devils cut the blocks to 16 on Wednesday and managed to get 27 on goal — two more than New York.
“Overall, we just have to be better,” Lundqvist said.
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