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NHL PLAYOFFS

Rangers Win, Get Even With Devils

May 05, 1997|From Associated Press

The New York Rangers turned nasty and tied their playoff series with the New Jersey Devils.

Goalie Mike Richter made 32 saves to become the Rangers' shutout leader in the playoffs, and Brian Leetch ended Martin Brodeur's mastery with a first-period power-play goal to lead the Rangers to a 2-0 victory in Game 2 at East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday. The Rangers evened the Eastern Conference semifinal, 1-1, following a 2-0 loss in the opening game.

Richter made a save without his catching glove, stick and blocking pad, stopping John MacLean's shot with his hand after the Devil right wing broke free from the right circle. Defenseman Adam Graves cleared the loose puck and Russ Courtnal scored an empty-net goal with 45 seconds to play.

The Rangers, among the worst penalty-killing teams during the regular season, prevented the Devils from scoring during seven power plays. The best-of-seven series continues with two games on the New York side of the Hudson River. Game 3 will be played Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

"We have to feel a sense of accomplishment. It would have been very difficult to come back from 2-0 against this team," Richter said after recording a team-record eighth shutout in the playoffs.

After being outshot, 15-0, in the opening 15 minutes, the Rangers counted on Richter to keep the game scoreless. The momentum switched to the Rangers late in the first period when Mark Messier cross-checked Devil center Doug Gilmour to the face near the New Jersey bench.

No penalty was called. The Rangers converted their power play seconds later, after Bill Guerin was called for charging.

"There are no messages being sent here," Messier said. "It's just a matter of execution because both teams are so familiar with each other."

The Devils had killed 20 consecutive power plays.

With 1:39 left in the first period, Alexander Karpovtsev picked Mac Lean at center ice, permitting Wayne Gretzky to skate into the New Jersey zone. Gretzky, the NHL's lifetime scoring leader, skated down the right and passed to Leetch coming down the left for a shot that easily beat Brodeur.

Brodeur recorded shutouts in his previous two playoffs games.

Richter protected the lead. His best save was a glove stop on a shot by MacLean in the final minute, after the Rangers had a defensive lapse in their own zone.

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