New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, left, of Sweden, makes a stop on a shot by New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk (17), of Russia, as Rangers' Anton Stralman, of Sweden, helps defend during the second period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference final playoff series Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Newark, N.J. The Rangers won 3-0. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
NEWARK, N.J. - Ilya Kovalchuk wound up for a hard one-timer in the third period, only to see it gobbled up again by Henrik Lundqvist.
The New Jersey Devils' biggest scoring threat shoved his stick back into his hand like he was jamming it into a holster and skated away with more frustration etched on his face. It was that kind of a day again for the Devils against the New York Rangers' goalie, who shut them out 3-0 on Saturday for the second time in three games of the Eastern Conference finals.
Kovalchuk's drive during another failed power play was the culmination of a long day for him and his teammates. New Jersey was the dominant team through the first 40 minutes, outshooting the Rangers 26-14 in the opening two periods.
Kovalchuk had a pair of breakaways, but couldn't produce the elusive goal that would have energized the crowd waiting for a reason to break out in cheers and drown out the many Rangers fans that had invaded from the other side of the river.
Kovalchuk finished with a game-high six shots on goal, and was left with nothing to show for it as New Jersey handed back home-ice advantage to New York and dropped into a 2-1 series hole.
The Devils finished with 36 shots that were all stopped by Lundqvist, and had 19 more that were blocked by New York defenders before they could get through to him. Throw in an 0-for-5 performance on the power play, and it's no surprise why Kovalchuk and the rest of the Devils were left shaking their heads.
"We just have to keep going, doing the same thing," said Kovalchuk, who had 37 goals in the regular season and added six more in the playoffs. "We can't change our game, we can't get frustrated about it. They lead 2-1, we have to regroup and come back Monday night."
The game was scoreless until the third period when the Rangers broke through with a power-play goal by defenceman Dan Girardi at 3:19 and an even-strength tally by Chris Kreider just 1:57 later.
Had Kovalchuk connected on a breakaway chance in the first minute of the second period, the outcome might have been much different.
"I got a good chance, I just didn't lift the puck," said Kovalchuk, who scored the opening goal in New Jersey's Game 2 victory. "I beat him, he just put his arm there. I should have put it up. He is making great saves. We've got to score on our chances."
The Devils came away from this loss feeling good about the chances they generated, and tried not to dwell on the fact that they weren't rewarded on any of them.
They know Lundqvist well and they are confident they can get pucks past him again as they did on Wednesday in their 3-2 victory at Madison Square Garden. One shot that did elude Lundqvist struck the goal post and stayed out.
"It's one way to look at a positive thing here," forward Patrik Elias said. "It's not like we didn't create anything. They didn't block everything, they didn't outbattle us. It was a battle from both teams."
Devils coach Peter DeBoer was very matter of fact when asked what—if anything—he would change about this disappointing defeat.
"We've had nights like this before," DeBoer said. "We're not the first team that Lundqvist has done this to. You have to battle through. It's a little frustrating. We created chances. We carried the play. We did a lot of good things. Got to stick with it."
The Devils scored two of the three goals they have in this series on deflections in Game 2. It might take more of the same to get the best of Lundqvist, a Vezina Trophy and MVP finalist, who appears to be playing at the top of his game.
"We had quality chances. Forget the tips," DeBoer said. "We had breakaways and two-on-ones. We've got to score a goal."