NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A year after beating them in the Eastern Conference finals, the New Jersey Devils still have the New York Rangers’ number.
The reasons haven’t changed, either.
Martin Brodeur is playing great, Adam Henrique is still being a thorn in the Rangers’ side and the Devils are getting contributions from everyone, with David Clarkson stepping up big-time.
Brodeur made 24 saves, Henrique put the Devils ahead early and Clarkson scored twice and set up another as New Jersey beat the Rangers 3-1 Tuesday in their first meeting since New Jersey beat them in six games in the playoffs. Patrik Elias added three assists.
“That’s a huge game for us,” Clarkson said after the Devils won their second straight after snapping a four-game winless streak. “We knew we had to come out hard. We did a lot of good things as a team tonight. Marty played unbelievable.”
Some of the best things the Devils did was on special teams. They killed off all five Rangers’ power plays, including four in the first period, and converted on 1 of 4 chances with the man advantage.
Brodeur stood tall and New Jersey capitalized when the Rangers made mistakes, jumping to a 2-0 lead in a first period when New York seemed to have an edge in play.
“It was fun,” said Brodeur, who carried a shutout into the third period. “We got some big kills and I brought up the energy level in the building. It’s fun to play in front of fans like that. I would be great to be every single game but when you play the Rangers, it’s a little different. ”
Henrique, who ended last year’s series with an overtime goal, picked up right where he left off, scoring in close five minutes after the opening faceoff to give the Devils a lead they would never lose.
“He scored the last one against them last year in the playoffs and the first one against them this year,” Brodeur said. “It’s not a bad thing.”
Chris Kreider scored for the Rangers, who have yet to jell this season despite adding scoring star Rick Nash.
“It’s not the start that we were looking for, personally and as a group,” said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who had 19 saves. “We have to work hard and believe we can get there. We have been there a few times, a couple of games here and there. Like you said though, we need consistency to put a lot of games together and it starts with me.”
Nash was at the center of the Rangers’ futility. He had a chance less than a minute before Henrique gave New Jersey the lead. He broke in on Brodeur and crashed into the 40-year-old goalie. Nash slammed into the goalpost and it went off its peg before the puck crossed the goal line and was waved off by the referees. The play was reviewed and the call was upheld.
Henrique scored less than a minute later with a shot from low in the left circle. It came after Marian Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto turned the puck over in their zone. Clarkson sent it behind the net and Elias found Henrique for his second goal of the season.
Brodeur made his best save on defenseman Marc Staal late in a four-minute penalty to defenseman Andy Greene for high sticking. New York kept the puck in the New Jersey zone and put together about four passes with Staal getting a shot from low in the left circle. Brodeur slid across the crease, blocked the shot with his pad and fell on the puck before the Rangers could attack the rebound.
Clarkson, who is showing that his 30-goal season a year ago wasn’t a fluke doubled the lead with 53 seconds left in the period. Once again, the Rangers had trouble clearing and the Devils took advantage when Stephen Gionta pass in front got tangled in Nash’s skates and Clarkson slammed the loose puck between Lundqvist’s pads for his sixth goal.
“I thought we gave them two free ones,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella, who said some of his players are playing very tentative and that’s not the way his team plays.
Nash had the Rangers’ best chance in the second period when he swooped on goal, got Brodeur out of position and then slide his shot across the goalmouth with the net open.
Clarkson stretched the lead to 3-0 early in the third, putting the rebound of a Greene power-play shot past Lundqvist.
He’s in the right spot at the right time,” said Elias, who matched his career best with three assists. “He’s so confident out there. He shoots everything and it bounces to him. It’s great to see and it makes my job easier. You just get the puck in there where he is and he finds a way.”
Kreider, who was just returning from an ankle injury, ended Brodeur’s shutout bid with a shot over the goaltender’s shoulder at 6:28 of the third period.
The Rangers pressed the rest of the way but Brodeur was outstanding, making two nice saves on Marian Gaborik, a glove stop on Staal and a spectacular glove save on a deflection by Carl Hagelin, who was set up by Nash.
“We still could do a lot more to make it harder,” Rangers captain Brad Richards said. “I’m not saying we would have scored. He’s a good goalie. He comes up with big saves at certain times but that’s the way he has always been. I don’t think we made it that hard on him but he was there when he had to be.”
NOTES: The Rangers came in 1 for 11 on the power play on the road and they were fruitless in five more chances. … The Devils have killed off their last 15 short-handed situations. … Kreider’s goal was his first in a regular-season game. … The teams will meet three more times this season. … Brodeur is now two games away from the 1,200-mark in his NHL career. … Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was scratched with an undisclosed injury. …J.T. Miller, who was called up from Connecticut, made his NHL debut for the Rangers and made two shots. He was a plus-1. …Darroll Powe, who was acquired from Minnesota in the deal that sent Mike Rupp to the Wild, played 8:33 in his New York debut.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)