Another rivalry game between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils featured a dramatic finish, with a last-minute goal by David Clarkson leading the teams to a shootout and Martin Brodeur slamming the door to keep the Devils alive.
As the NHL got back to business, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils had an opportunity to put another chapter into their long rivalry, and fans at the Prudential Center would not be disappointed by the result.
In an unusual twist, Rangers head coach John Tortorella decided to put Martin Biron in goal, allowing All-Star Henrik Lundqvist to enjoy a brief break after returning from Ottawa. It would mark the first time in 33 meetings of the two clubs that the Swedish star would not start against the division rival.
Both goaltenders put forth an impressive first-period effort, but an early push from the home team faded in the final minutes, allowing the Rangers to bring their speed into play. With an All-Star rush of Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin breaking through the neutral zone, Brodeur made the initial save against Gaborik's shot but kicked the rebound into open ice, where Anton Stralman capitalized, burying it into the open net.
Zach Parise tied the game on a perfect setup in the second period from Danius Zubrus, going in on Biron for one shot before catching his own rebound to finish his chance at the side of the net, setting up both teams for a big third period.
The Rangers took an early lead when Brian Boyle showed surprisingly soft hands to get the puck up and over a sprawling Brodeur, and they clung to their lead for much of the period before a holding call on Artem Anisimov put the Eastern Conference leaders on the PK with just over five minutes left in regulation.
New Jersey's power play has been one of the worst in the NHL on home ice this season, but Ilya Kovalchuk came up big, collecting a drop pass from Patrik Elias and bombing his shot past Biron to re-establish the tie.
Michael Del Zotto responded less than a minute later, collecting a cross ice pass from Marian Gaborik and unleashing the one-timer that turned heads during his rookie season, and the Rangers seemed prepared to continue business as usual, but the Devils had two more cards to play on the evening.
Despite a near-miss by Derek Stepan that slid along the goal line but would not go in, the Devils generally had the better time in the five minute OT, but neither goaltender allowed a goal, putting the teams into the shootout.
Despite a long break due to an issue with the goalpost pegs not coming off the ice properly for the Zamboni, Kovalchuk opened the shootout without hesitating, beating Biron through the legs when the goaltender anticipated a high glove shot, leaving his pads wide open.
Derek Stepan, Zach Parise, Brad Richards, and Patrik Elias all came up dry, giving Marian Gaborik a chance to keep New York alive. Going wide before moving in for his shot, the Slovakian tried for high glove, but Brodeur denied it with authority, giving his team their first win since Jan. 17.