Devils 4, Rangers 2

0

NEW YORK – Patrik Elias jump-started the streaking New Jersey Devils in the playoff opener and then used another flourish to sweep away the New York Rangers.

Elias scored two goals and assisted on Scott Gomez’s power-play goal early in the second period – that wiped out the Rangers’ only lead of the series – giving the Devils a 4-2 win Saturday and ending the first-round matchup in four straight games.

Brian Gionta sealed the deal 4:30 into the third period with the Devils’ third short-handed goal of the series after a terrible turnover by Petr Sykora.

Elias ripped in another goal, his fifth of the series, with 6:39 left to make it 4-1.

The Rangers scored only four times in four games, while yielding 17 goals.

New Jersey will have to wait to find out who it will meet in the second round, but will enter that series just as it did this one – as the hottest team in the NHL. The workmanlike Devils stretched their winning streak to 15 games, tying the league mark for the longest run that spanned the regular season and playoffs.

Martin Brodeur made 31 saves and broke Patrick Roy’s league record by playing his 137th consecutive postseason game. His 88th playoff win moved him into a third-place tie with Billy Smith and Ed Belfour on the NHL career list.

The Devils, who turned sloppy Rangers play into goals throughout the short series, earned their third playoff sweep. They have won the Stanley Cup in the two other years they pulled off the feat.

New York was facing long odds at the start of the day, knowing that only two NHL teams have rallied to win a series after trailing 3-0. But things got much worse just 53 seconds in when team scoring leader Jaromir Jagr aggravated a serious shoulder injury and was forced out of the game.

The right wing, who posted team records of 54 goals and 123 points this season, went into the deep right corner in the Devils end when defenseman Brad Lukowich met him with a hit on the right shoulder. The force drove Jagr into the boards, leading with his left shoulder that is thought to be dislocated or separated.

He crumpled to the ice and stayed down until he was assisted by New York’s training staff. Jagr skated off, doubled over and with his left arm drooping, and headed straight down the tunnel to the dressing room.

For the Rangers, it was a bitter end to a season that had so much promise but finished with a flameout in their first playoff appearance since 1997. New York led the Atlantic Division for most of the season but fell to third by losing the final five games. The Rangers enter the summer break on a nine-game losing skid.

Jed Ortmeyer gave his team and the frustrated fans in Madison Square Garden a lift when he charged in to Brodeur’s right and put in a rebound of his own backhander with 18.6 seconds left in the opening period.

It was his first goal in 38 games and snapped a stretch of 367 minutes, 23 seconds over 18 periods since April 13 when the Rangers last held the lead.

Elias made sure it was gone quickly.

After putting New York in a hole with two goals and four assists in the Devils’ 6-1 win in Game 1, he struck again one week later to help New Jersey knock out its Hudson River rival for the first time in four playoff meetings.

Gomez tied it 1-1 at 4:20 of the second when the Rangers were serving a too many men on the ice penalty, and Elias put the Devils in front at 7:21 while Michal Rozsival was off for the first of his three straight infractions.

Former New Jersey forward Petr Sykora found more frustration as he hit the crossbar in the first period, the fourth time he struck iron in three games.

Brodeur was sharp in the third, making a quick, darting left toe save on Darius Kasparaitis’ long drive. Steve Rucchin beat him with 1:27 to make it 4-2.

Notes: The Rangers scratched D Sandis Ozolinsh, who scored into his own net in Game 2, was beaten on the play that led to New Jersey’s goal 68 seconds into Game 3, and was on the ice for five of the first 13 New Jersey goals in the series. The crowd roared when it was announced he wouldn’t play. … Kasparaitis returned after missing two games with a groin injury. … Devils D Colin White sat out his third consecutive with a groin injury. … New Jersey swept Detroit in the 1995 Stanley Cup finals, and Florida in the first round in 2000. The Rangers held a 33-29 shots advantage in the game and 114-104 in the series.

AP-ES-04-29-06 1759EDT

Advertisement
SHARE