Devils outlast Rangers, 5-3, take 3-2 series lead

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NEW YORK (AP) - The Devils turned a stellar first nine minutes and an opportunistic final five into a stirring victory over the Rangers that moved New Jersey within one win of a trip to the Stanley Cup finals.

Suddenly, No. 1 seed New York is on the brink _ again.

No one would have guessed when Travis Zajac scored 9:49 in to give the Devils a three-goal lead that they would be desperately looking for one more late in the third to hold off the favored Rangers, who had fought back to tie and appeared to have every bit of the momentum.

But the game, and perhaps the entire Eastern Conference finals, changed in the blink of an eye when Ryan Carter put the Devils in front to stay.

Carter snapped a tie with 4:24 left, and New Jersey survived en route to a 5-3 victory over New York after blowing a three-goal lead in Game 5 on Wednesday night. The rugged fourth-line forward, who had only four goals and four assists in 72 games, already has three goals in the playoffs, including two this round.

The Devils, who led 3-0 before the first period was half over, have a 3-2 edge in the series and can advance to face the Los Angeles Kings with a win at home Friday. If the Rangers can stay alive, Game 7 would be at Madison Square Garden Sunday.

“It’s a good feeling,” goalie Martin Brodeur said of the Devils’ status. “We worked really hard to get in that position. (There’s been) a lot of unsung heroes and guys producing at different times. Players are playing well. We’ve just got to keep going.

“Nothing is done yet.”

The Devils seemed primed for an easy win when Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias scored within the first 4:13. Travis Zajac made it 3-0 before the Rangers woke up and began chipping away.

Brandon Prust brought New York within 3-1 before the first period was over, and Ryan Callahan made it a one-goal game in the first minute of the second. The Garden really rocked when Marian Gaborik tied it at 3 just 17 seconds into the third.

But the comeback was for naught. Carter put the Devils back in front, and Zach Parise sealed it with an empty-net goal.

“I thought,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said, “we probably played our best game of the series.”

Once Gaborik tied it with an unassisted goal that ricocheted in off the skate of Brodeur, it appeared the Rangers would ride the comeback all the way to one of the most stirring wins in team history _ one that would rival victories over New Jersey in the classic 1994 East finals when the Rangers erased a 3-2 series hole behind Mark Messier’s guarantee.

Carter made sure it wouldn’t happen. At least not on this night.

“You have to (keep it together) this time of year,” Gionta said. “You have to have a short memory. Fortunately we did and came out with the victory.”

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