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Clarkson, Carter lift Devils over Rangers

New Jersey Devils' Cam Janssen, right, fights with New York Rangers' John Scott during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 6, 2012, in Newark, N.J. New Jersey Devils' Cam Janssen, right, fights with New York Rangers' John Scott during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 6, 2012, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
By Ira Podell
AP Sports Writer / March 6, 2012
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NEWARK, N.J.—David Clarkson and Ryan Carter scored 1:54 apart early in the third period, and the New Jersey Devils' slumbering offense broke out in a 4-1 victory over the NHL-leading New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Clarkson tipped Petr Sykora's hard drive past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist at 2:27 to give the Devils their second lead of the game, and Carter pushed New Jersey ahead by two at 4:21. Carter, who has three goals this season, hadn't scored since Nov. 19 -- a 37-game drought.

Carter also fought Brandon Dubinsky in the first period, a bout that knocked the Rangers forward out of the game with a hand injury. Ilya Kovalchuk also had a goal, and Patrik Elias made it 4-1 by scoring into an empty net with 1:53 left.

Sykora nearly had the winning goal after being honored before the game for playing in his 1,000th NHL contest, but settled for the primary assist. Martin Brodeur made 25 saves.

New Jersey had been shut out in two of its previous four games, including a road loss to the Rangers.

Derek Stepan scored New York's lone goal, and Lundqvist made 25 saves for the Rangers (42-16-7), who have a big lead in the Eastern Conference and had just moved to the top of the NHL standings on Sunday. The Rangers are 2-2-1 against the Devils this season, with one game left in the series.

Stepan got the Rangers even at 1 early in the second when they controlled play. Already dominating on the shot board, New York managed to get a puck past Brodeur.

Right after Lundqvist was bowled over in the crease at the other end, the Rangers got the puck up ice. Carl Hagelin worked the puck free behind the Devils net and sent a pass into the high slot to a wide-open Stepan, who smacked the rolling puck into the top left corner -- just under the crossbar -- to tie it at 6:56.

It was the second straight Rangers goal by Stepan, who netted the winner Sunday in New York's 4-3 home victory over Boston.

The Rangers continued to put the heat on the Devils and raced out to an 11-1 edge in shots over the first 10 minutes of the second period, but nothing else got by Brodeur.

New Jersey rebounded in the second half of the period and generated scoring chances, too, but Lundqvist stood tall. He denied Kovalchuk on a hard drive from inside the blue line, and Zach Parise whiffed as he tried to knock the rebound into the open right side of the net with 2:05 left in the period.

After combining for only 28 shots in their previous meeting on Feb. 27, the teams mustered 41 -- 23 for the Devils -- through 40 minutes Tuesday.

The Devils needed less than a minute of the game to get a puck past Lundqvist, something they couldn't do eight days earlier in a 2-0 loss at Madison Square Garden. After a Rangers turnover at center ice, Kovalchuk took a backhanded pass from Parise in the New York zone, split the defense when the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh fell, and snapped in his 26th goal of the season at 49 seconds.

It was Kovalchuk's first goal in 10 games, dating to his hat trick on Feb. 14 at Buffalo.

New Jersey kept up the pressure throughout the first period and recorded 11 shots on goal -- two fewer than they had in the whole game the last time the Devils faced the Rangers. Adam Henrique was stopped on a short-handed breakaway with 5:30 left in the first, and Lundqvist denied two point-blank drives by Kovalchuk in the final 10 seconds of the frame.

Kovalchuk had five of New Jersey's shots in the first.

The Rangers got captain Ryan Callahan back in the lineup after he missed three games because of a bruised foot sustained in the previous meeting with the Devils, but New York lost Dubinsky 3:03 in after his fight with Carter.

NOTES: Rangers C John Mitchell was scratched for the first time since being recalled from Connecticut of the AHL on Nov. 24. D Steve Eminger rejoined the lineup after being scratched the previous six games. Mistake-prone D Anton Stralman sat out. ... Devils LW Alexei Ponikarovsky skated with the team Tuesday morning and said his injured right knee is feeling better, but he sat out a third straight game. ... New Jersey recalled C Brad Mills from Albany of the AHL, but he wasn't in the lineup. ... Devils D Andy Greene returned after missing one game because of back spasms.

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