NEWARK — The Devils moved to within two points of the Rangers with a 3-2 win at Prudential Center on Tuesday, as special teams were the clear difference in the first game for the two clubs following the All-Star break.
David Schlemko beat Henrik Lundqvist with a shot over his left shoulder at 10:14 of the third period for their second power-play goal of the evening, snapping a 2-2 tie. The Rangers, meanwhile, went 0-for-4 on the power play and Cory Schneider made 31 saves.
With 3:02 left, the Rangers might have lost Kevin Klein when Reid Boucher checked him into the boards, and the defenseman left in pain, holding his right wrist. The Blueshirts, playing without Rick Nash (leg) turned on the pressure in the final few minutes, but couldn’t score.
The Devils moved to 26-20-5 (57 points); the Rangers are 27-18-5 (59). The teams face each other two more times in the next three weeks: on Feb. 8 and Feb. 23.
The Rangers had an early lead in the third period. J.T. Miller, with his third career two-goal game, and sixth goal in his last five games, put the Rangers up 2-1 on a one-timer at 2:06.
Before the All-Star break, the Rangers had allowed goals numerous times after taking the lead, and that trend continued. Just 1:07 later the Devils tied it. Rookie Joseph Blandisi raced down the left side, past Dan Girard, and snapped a shortsider under Lundqvist’s right arm.
In the second, as a carryover power play wound down stemming from Derek Stepan’s hook with six seconds to go in the first, there was no defender near Lee Stempniak, posted face-to-face with Lundqvist on the doorstep. He shoved Eric Gelinas’ rebound in to tie the score at 1 at 1:34, and a coach’s challenge for goaltender interference was denied. Stempniak, who played for the Blueshirts last season, scored the overtime winner in the previous game between the two clubs on Oct. 18 at Madison Square Garden.
Maybe it was the six-day All-Star layoff and one practice, but the Blueshirts were about as crisp as a soggy towel in the first half of the opening period. The two players who had practiced and played in Nashville, Schneider and Ryan McDonagh, were the sharpest, although Derick Brassard, who had been working on his suntan, had four shots.
In the first 10 minutes, the Rangers mishandled the puck in their zone on nearly every shift. A power play at 3:36 when Adam Larsson hooked Chris Kreider went mostly in reverse and produced no shots on goal. Adam Henrique’s shorthanded try from alone in front went high, slamming off the glass.
Miller finally got a puck past Schneider, who had robbed him with his glove minutes earlier. But the winger didn’t miss his second opportunity. After Klein blocked a shot, Jesper Fast raced to retrieve the puck and banked a pass off the right wall that triggered a two-on-one with Brassard on the right and Miller on the left, and Miller lifted it past the Devils goaltender.
It might have been 2-0 or 3-0 had Schneider not stopped Kreider and Brassard earlier. Then, with 2:09 left, Schneider flashed his glove to deny McDonagh.