Weekes Stands Tall In Win Over Devils
Kevin Weekes' clutch goaltending allowed the Rangers to do something they hadn't since '96-97. Win twice against the Devils in the regular season.
On a night when Martin Brodeur didn't start against the Rangers for the first time in 69 games including playoffs (since Chris Terreri on December 5, 1993), Weekes stole the show. In his first start since allowing goals on the first three shots in a 5-4 loss to the Islanders on October 20, Weekes was sharp, making 30 saves in a 4-2 win over New Jersey at Continental Airlines Arena Thursday night.
After allowing a fluke power play goal to Brian Gionta that he redirected in off a Paul Martin shot which caromed off the boards to make it 3-2 with 10:41 remaining in the game, Weekes made his best save minutes later when he robbed Gionta on the doorstep. Alexander Mogilny's backhand centering feed found Gionta's stick right in front but somehow, Weekes slid across and closed up the five-hole to deny Gionta of the tying goal.
With the Devils pressing, Weekes and his teammates held on for victory, which was sealed when Jaromir Jagr notched his second goal of the game- scoring into an empty net with 18 seconds left.
Early on, New Jersey carried the play and were rewarded when Jamie Langenbrunner opened the scoring 4:06 in. While killing a penalty, Langenbrunner took advantage of a Ranger miscue at the point and broke in on Weekes, beating him top shelf for a 1-0 lead. It was the first shorthanded goal of the season for the Devils.
Not even a minute later, the game turned when Ryan Hollweg and Fedor Tyutin were penalized seven seconds apart, giving New Jersey a golden opportunity to break the contest open. Under stress, Weekes did some of his best work, refusing to permit a shot by him. The Devils haven't scored on a two-man advantage this season.
With his team still not sharp, Weekes (13 first period saves) denied Erik Rasmussen's backhand attempt on a breakaway to keep the deficit one. That's when the Blueshirts finally got their legs moving and drew a couple of penalties. Unable to score on a Grant Marshall roughing call, they capitalized on their third power play to tie it. With Gionta off for tripping, Martin Straka worked a simple give-and-go down low to Michael Nylander, who one-timed the puck by Scott Clemmensen, making it 1-1 at 14:05. Straka and Tom Poti tallied assists.
Just 47 seconds later, Jagr struck to put the Rangers in front. Off a Ville Nieminen lob dumped into the Devil zone, Jagr found the puck and powered around Richard Matvichuk, tucking the puck through Clemmensen's five-hole for a 2-1 lead with 5:07 left in the first. The goal extended Jagr's point streak to 11 straight (12-6-18).
Over a minute later, the two remaining NHL teams without a fighting major had one when Jason Strudwick and Marshall squared off. They exchanged lefts in a fairly even scrap.
In the second, Jagr helped extend New York's lead to two goals. Outworking the Devil checking line of John Madden, Jay Pandolfo and Marshall, Jagr's top line pinned them deep and cycled the puck. It finally came to Jagr, who was left alone behind the net. With no Devil pressuring him, Jagr floated a soft pass off Clemmensen which Nylander knocked down and put home to make it 3-1 at 9:22. It was Nylander's first two-goal game as a Ranger and fourth of the season. Jagr and Marek Malik assisted. It would prove to be too much for the Devils to overcome.
In his fourth start in a row, Clemmensen turned aside 21 of 24 shots.
Notes: Recalled from Hartford, Petr Prucha and Ryan Hollweg suited up for the Rangers in place of scratch Fedor Fedorov and Jeff Taffe, who was sent down for a conditioning stint....Poti returned from the flu, replacing Maxim Kondratiev....Devil defenseman Colin White missed his eighth consecutive game with a groin injury....A call-up from the Rats, Tuomas Pihlman replaced Pascal Rheaume, who cleared waivers in being reassigned to Albany....Rangers (7-4-3) host Devils (6-6-1) at MSG Saturday at 1 PM to complete a home-and-home.