NEW YORK -- Martin Brodeur made the heads of the New York Rangers sag as low as Jaromir Jagr's achy shoulder.
The goaltender's job got a lot easier when Patrik Elias wrecked the long-awaited playoff party at Madison Square Garden just over a minute into the game.
Brodeur stopped 25 shots in his 21st career playoff shutout and Elias had a goal and assist within the first 10 minutes to lift the Devils to a 3-0 victory last night that pushed Jagr and the Rangers to the brink of playoff elimination.
Elias set up Jamie Langenbrunner 68 seconds after the opening faceoff and then scored his third goal of the series eight minutes later. Brodeur did the rest in shutting down an already struggling Rangers offense.
The return of the injured Jagr didn't help, and the Devils won their 14th straight game.
''[Jagr] is a tremendous hockey player so you've got to know if he is going to play or not," said Brodeur, who is two shutouts behind Patrick Roy for the NHL career record. ''Regardless of him being there 100 percent or not there, it doesn't change the approach of our game."
New Jersey took advantage of New York's deficient special teams in winning the opening two games of the series, and then built a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven matchup by scoring three goals at even strength.
Not even the unexpected return of Jagr, who is battling a left shoulder injury, could spark the Rangers in their first home playoff game in nine years. Petr Sykora came the closest to scoring but he hit the post -- for the second straight game -- when facing an open net in the second period.
Jagr sat out Game 2 after he was hurt late in the opening loss at New Jersey and said it would take a miracle for him to be ready to play yesterday. Mission accomplished, but that was nothing compared to what the Rangers will need to rally in this series.
''It's the playoffs. If I can play, I'm going to play," said Jagr, who had one shot in 17:09 of ice time. ''I knew it wasn't going to be any good. I tried my best."
Only two NHL teams have come back to win after trailing, 3-0, and the Devils have never lost a series they led as much as 2-0. Much of that success is linked to Brodeur, who can tie Roy in Game 4 with his 136th consecutive playoff start.
''I don't think our approach will change that much because we're up 3-nothing," Brodeur said. ''We just don't want to give them life. We are definitely scared of that hockey club."
Rookie forward Zach Parise scored 2:48 into the second period for the Devils, who will have a chance Saturday to eliminate the Rangers for the first time in four playoff meetings between the area rivals.
''We have to keep the next game close," Jagr said. ''We have to be able to score and not make any mistakes. We have to try to get one win and then you never know. Anything is possible. We have nothing to lose. We are almost dead."
Henrik Lundqvist, who gave up all the New Jersey goals in the opening 6-1 loss, came back after his Game 2 benching but surrendered three goals this time on just nine shots. He finished with 17 saves.
''We just need some luck so we can feel the bounces are going our way," Lundqvist said.