|Adam Henrique (top) is mobbed by his Devils teammates after scoring the winning goal to knock out the Rangers in Game 6. (Frank Franklin Ii/Associated Press)|
Devils shock Rangers in OT
N.J. to face Kings in the Cup finals
NEWARK - A year after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996, the New Jersey Devils are going back to the Stanley Cup finals, thanks to a rookie, a 40-year-old goaltender and a coach who’d never been to the postseason in the NHL.
How’s that for a turnaround?
Adam Henrique scored off a wild scramble in front just 63 seconds into overtime as the Devils defeated the rival New York Rangers, 3-2, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals to advance to their first Stanley Cup finals since 2003.
The Devils will face the Los Angeles Kings for the Cup in a series that will start Wednesday here.
This series win came against the Devils’ most intense rival, and it was that much sweeter.
“That one was like Christmas,’’ said Henrique, who also scored the series winner as Devils’ first-round win over Florida.
It also was needed. The Devils’ blew a 2-0 first-period lead and didn’t want to head back to New York for a Game 7 Sunday.
“It didn’t matter how it got to overtime, we were in a good position,’’ Devils captain Zach Parise said. “We were at home. We just needed one shot.’’
Actually, the Devils needed four shots to win the game.
Henrique’s winner came after Henrik Lundqvist stopped Ilya Kovalchuk twice and Alexei Ponikarovsky. The last shot lay in the crease and Henrique tapped it home.
Ryan Carter and Kovalchuk also scored for the Devils, who blew a 2-0 first period lead.
Ruslan Fedotenko and Ryan Callahan tallied for top-seeded New York, which had a good flurry just before New Jersey scored.
Henrique, who is nominated for the Calder Trophy - given to the NHL’s top rookie - skated away from the crease and jumped against the end boards in the corner as his teammates jumped off the bench and mobbed him.
The six Rangers on the ice just stayed down in disbelief and frustration. This was very much like Game 5, which the Devils won, 5-3. New York carried the play after the first period and had a 35-29 edge in shots.
But when it came time for a game-deciding play to be made, it was a Devil who made it.
Henrique, who scored the winner in Game 7 of the Devils’ opening-round series against Florida, overcame injury to score this one. He seemed to take a stick from Brian Boyle in the groin area late in the third and had to leave the ice.
He felt no pain after the winner.
All the Rangers could do was bow their heads and then line up for the traditional handshake after losing to their rivals in a series that was close.
Ageless Martin Brodeur, 40, kept the Devils alive in the third. He stopped a power-play shot by Brad Richards, made a save on Artem Anisimov between the circles and used his stick to deflect a pass from the boards by Carl Hagelin in the final minute just before it got to Marian Gaborik on the edge of the crease.
Lundqvist’s best stop in the third was on Dainius Zubrus on a shot from behind the circles.
Facing elimination and down, 2-0, after 20 minutes, the Rangers found their game in the second period and tied the game at 2-all on goals by Fedotenko and Callahan in a roughly four-minute span.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who assisted on both goals, made the big play to get New York back in the game. He collected the puck above the left circle, skated around the net and tried a wrap around. The shot didn’t go on goal but it turned out to be a perfect pass to Fedotenko who a tap-in into an open net at 9:47.
Callahan, who had a goal in Game 5, tied the game at 13:41 when Dan Girardi’s shot from the right point deflected off his leg into the open lower corner of the net. Callahan’s sixth of the postseason was set up when Brandon Dubinsky won a faceoff.
It was 18 years ago that Brodeur lost Game 6 to the Rangers. Not this time.