NEW YORK -- The signs are everywhere that these New York Rangers are very different.
Don't look now, but this might land the Rangers in the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
Petr Prucha broke New York's power-play slump, and fellow rookie Henrik Lundqvist outdueled Olympic goalie counterpart Martin Brodeur to lift the Rangers to a 3-1 victory Sunday night that ended the Devils' nine-game winning streak.
The Rangers improved to 4-1-1 against New Jersey this season with two games left. They won the series from their area rivals for the first time since the 1996-97 season, the last time New York was in the postseason.
New Jersey has jumped back into the playoff picture and had closed within six points of New York.
"We talked about it as being a playoff-like game for us," said Rangers coach Tom Renney, whose team has won three in a row.
Since the last time the Rangers won a series from the Devils, the Devils were 23-3-11 in head-to-head matchups before this season.
"It's going to happen. You can't go on all your life and beat up on somebody," Brodeur said. "They're going to retaliate sometimes. They're a different team than what they were a few years back."
Prucha staked the Rangers to the lead in the first period with his 24th goal and Michael Nylander doubled it in the second. Lundqvist did the rest, stopping 31 shots and slowing down the Devils' power play in the process. Dominic Moore sealed it with an empty-netter on New York's 33rd and final shot.
Scott Gomez, a U.S. Olympian, kept Lundqvist away from his third NHL shutout when he cut New Jersey's deficit in half 6:36 into the final period. The Devils hadn't lost since Dec. 31 at Toronto.
"We just have to move on and try to get better," Brodeur said.
Lundqvist, a Swedish Olympian, faced his toughest test early when defenseman Darius Kasparaitis was ejected for elbowing Devils forward Grant Marshall in the head. Just one second earlier, the Rangers killed off their first short-handed situation only to find themselves down a man for five more minutes.
"Most of how Kasparaitis plays is dirty to begin with," said Marshall, who had a stiff and sore neck.
New Jersey recorded three shots during the extended power play but had nothing to show for it.
"It was just the first period but it could've helped us," forward Patrik Elias said. "It could've changed the course of the game."
The Rangers killed all six Devils power plays, including a string at the end of the second period that left New Jersey with a two-man advantage for 1:36. New York was short-handed again just 21 seconds into the third.
"You have to be a little desperate when you're a man down and more desperate when you are two men down," Moore said.
The Devils' winning run started with the season debut of Elias, who missed the first 39 games of the season because of Hepatitis-A. New Jersey had scored at least one power-play goal in six consecutive games and had converted 11 of 22 chances during that streak.
"This is probably one of the best teams right now on the power play," Lundqvist said. "We really had to stay focused and that was the key to win."
Brodeur, Canada's top goalie, temporarily kept the Rangers off the board when he lunged to make a glove save on Fedor Tyutin's blue-line blast, but New York cashed in shortly after the ensuing faceoff.
Prucha took the puck in the right corner, carried it up the boards, and curled into the left circle. From there he snapped off a shot that sailed over Brodeur's shoulder at 12:37 -- 32 seconds into the Rangers' first power play.
It was just the fourth man-advantage goal scored by New York in 42 chances.
Nylander made it 2-0 with 4:54 left in the second period, with all the help coming from a slightly hobbled Jagr.
Gomez's drive was stopped by Lundqvist, and Jagr -- who injured a finger moments before -- corralled the puck deep in his own zone. With his head up as he skated toward the blue line, he paused before wiring a perfect feed to Nylander and hitting him in stride as he crossed into the Devils end.
New Jersey was caught in a change, and Nylander came in alone on Brodeur -- moving the puck from forehand to backhand before sliding a shot under the goalie's arm.
Gomez made it 2-1 when he streaked up the ice with Elias and scored his 18th goal.
|Michael Nylander beats Martin Brodeur as the Rangers improve to 4-1-1 vs. the Devils this season. (AP)|
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|NY Rangers (28-14-7) «||1||1||1||3|
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|12:37||Power Play - Petr Prucha (24), Wrist Shot - Assists: Martin Straka and Martin Rucinsky|
|15:06||Michael Nylander (12), Backhand Shot - Assist: Jaromir Jagr|
|06:36||Scott Gomez (18), Snap Shot - Assists: Patrik Elias and Tommy Albelin|
|19:49||Dominic Moore (8), Empty Net - Assists: Jason Ward and Martin Rucinsky|
|03:50||Ward: Holding the stick - 2 min.|
|05:51||Kasparaitis: Elbowing - 5 min.|
|05:51||Kasparaitis: Game Misconduct - 10 min.|
|12:05||Martin: Holding - 2 min.|
|15:07||Hale: Hooking - 2 min.|
|06:42||Janssen: Fighting - 5 min.|
|06:42||Hollweg: Fighting - 5 min.|
|08:43||Kozlov: Hooking - 2 min.|
|11:26||Rucchin: Tripping - 2 min.|
|18:01||Sykora: Holding - 2 min.|
|18:25||Ortmeyer: Tripping - 2 min.|
|00:21||Malik: Holding - 2 min.|
|10:12||Hale: Holding - 2 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|