New Jersey was all over the Rangers in Game 4 and tied up the series for the second time. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN's take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
RANGERS/DEVILS, GAME 4: DEVILS 4, RANGERS 1 (SERIES TIED 2-2)
THN’s Take: Game 4, my hockey-loving friends, was the New Jersey Devils at their very best. The Rangers undoubtedly were sluggish, but this lop-sided affair was much, much more about the Devils tenacious forecheck than it was New York's output.
When the Devils put together this type of effort, not the Rangers, nor the Kings (or, to be fair, the Coyotes) can hang in. It’s simply demoralizing for an opponent to be pinned down so prolifically and prodigiously. If you didn’t watch the game, know this: The 4-1 scoreline unfairly reflected the game’s domination. If not for royalty between the Rangers’ pipes, it would have been much worse.
Looking ahead to Game 5, the Rangers must find a way to generate more offense when not fighting to get out of their own end. The bend-but-don’t-break tactic has gotten New York to this point, but they can’t continue to allow the game to come to them the way they have for the majority of this series. This is not a new point from my entries, but I’ll continue to bang the table with the suggestion to activate the defense. They’ve been successful offensively in the few times they’ve done it this post-season and the reward is worth the risk, especially when you have hockey’s best goaltender covering up for any mistakes.
And while the late-game shenanigans, especially the tete-a-tete between coaches Peter DeBoer and John Tortorella will make for good talk radio and blogosphere fodder between now and Game 5, don't expect any of that bad blood to spill over onto the ice. Both these squads are well coached and know only too well what a stupid penalty could mean in deciding this now best-of-three, razor-thin-margin series.
1. Zach Parise: If there was ever a no-brainer, this is it. The Devils captain was a puck hawk all night, creating several opportunities with his play along the boards, in crashing the net, by transitioning on the rush…shall I continue? Clearly the team is happy with the way he's performing, but you have to wonder whether there isn't a faint ping of fret among management over the fact his value as an upcoming free agent is increasing with every game.
2. Martin Brodeur: He didn’t have many difficult stops, as most of the Rangers’ chances came from the fringes, but the 40-year-old was spectacular when needed and steady (and feisty) for the rest of the game.
3. Marek Zidlicky: Let’s give some love to a player who hasn’t received much this year. After his falling out in Minnesota and a much-questioned trade to New Jersey, the 35-year-old Czech has been watched with a critical eye. He’s been a difference-maker in several outings this spring and was noticeable in this game for his consciously creative play both at 5-on-5 and on the power play.
Who do you think was the first star?
The Black Hole: The Rangers effort was personified by Michael Del Zotto, who was slow footed all night, but especially on New Jersey’s second goal, scored by Travis Zajac, as well as on another turnover early in the second period that led to a David Clarkson partial break (a giveaway that saw Del Zotto pinned to the bench for the rest of the middle stanza and half of the third).