Michal Rozsival and Ryan Callahan scored second-period goals and the New York Rangers earned their third straight, beating Ilya Kovalchuk and the slumping New Jersey Devils, 3-1, last night at Madison Square Garden.
Kovalchuk, in the first season of a 15-year, $100 million deal, returned to New Jersey’s lineup a night after he was benched by coach John MacLean for undisclosed reasons. Kovalchuk didn’t play in the Devils’ 6-1 home loss to Buffalo and wasn’t much of a factor last night until he scored with 5:52 remaining to make it 2-1.
Kovalchuk, who along with MacLean said the issue between them was resolved, was in the penalty box when Callahan scored the power-play goal that gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
Rozsival and Callahan both had an assist, and Brandon Dubinsky scored an empty-net goal with a second left for the Rangers, who returned home after wins at Toronto and Boston. Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves, but fell a few minutes short of his 25th NHL shutout.
Martin Brodeur stopped 31 shots for New Jersey (2-6-1), which has been outscored, 30-15, this season. The Devils’ comeback chances were thwarted when Jacob Josefson went off for hooking with 4:10 left, but New Jersey mounted a furious push for the tying goal in the closing minutes that Lundqvist turned aside.
Kovalchuk is being counted on to carry the scoring load, and might be feeling the pressure. Even before his benching, the high-flying forward notched only two goals and 5 points in seven games. New Jersey is at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, one season after posting 103 points and winning the Atlantic Division.
Predators 4, Lightning 3 — Rookie Anders Lindback made 42 saves to help Nashville sweep a pair of weekend road games with a victory over Tampa Bay.
Lindback made in-close saves on Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone during the second and stopped Lecavalier on a third-period breakaway.
Shea Weber, Sergei Kostitsyn, Cody Franson, and Colin Wilson scored for the Predators, who are the only NHL team (5-0-3) not to have a loss in regulation this season. Nashville was coming off a 1-0 victory Saturday night in Dallas, where Pekka Rinne made 30 saves.
Tampa Bay got goals from Sean Bergenheim, Martin St. Louis, and Adam Hall.
Flames 4, Sharks 0 — Miikka Kiprusoff made 27 saves for his second shutout of the season and Rene Bourque scored twice in host Calgary’s win over San Jose.
Bourque has six goals this season, five in his last two games. He had three goals and an assist Friday in a 6-2 victory in Columbus. Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy also scored for Calgary.