- Associated Press - Thursday, December 21, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Brian Boyle didn’t take any extra satisfaction in playing a big role against the New York Rangers, his former team.

The satisfaction came from giving the New Jersey Devils a big win in a rivalry game that had a playoff atmosphere.

Boyle continued his remarkable comeback from cancer by scoring the tying goal in the third period and the game-winner in a shootout as the Devils overcame a season-high 45 saves by Henrik Lundqvist in a 4-3 victory Thursday night.

Boyle has been on a tear. He has nine goals and six assists this season, including three goals and four assists in the last three games, all Devils wins.

“I’d like to have them every night,” Boyle said when asked about his emotions. “I play a little bit better and tonight was against a rivalry team and a team that has played some great hockey the last two months. We’re out to prove we’re legit and we have to earn that every single night.”

The Devils are doing that. They had the worst record in the Eastern Conference last season, but are currently 20-9-5 and tied for the second-most points in the conference.

After a slow start, the Rangers are three points behind the Devils, who have played one fewer game.

“It’s critical, try to push them down, even by a point,” said New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider, who made 25 saves plus pivotal shootout stops on Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Shattenkirk. “We still have a lot of hockey left, but this one feels good.”

John Moore and Blake Coleman also scored in regulation, and Kyle Palmieri converted in a four-round shootout for the Devils.

Vesey, Nick Holden and Kevin Hayes scored for the Rangers, who had won three in a row. Mika Zibanejad had a goal in the shootout.

Boyle tied the game at 3 with 8:06 left in regulation on a power-play goal on a whirling backhander in close.

Hayes had given the Rangers the lead earlier in the period, banking a pass from behind the net off the skate of New Jersey defenseman Damon Severson past Schneider.

Lundqvist was the only reason the game was tied 2-all after two periods. He stopped 36 of 38 shots in the first 40 minutes, including 22 of 23 in the second period. The only one that got past him was a short-handed wrist shot by Coleman on a 2-on-1 break with 3:33 left in the period.

The goal came a little more than a minute after an apparent tying goal by Nico Hischier was waved off because of a cross-checking penalty on Palmieri in front of the Rangers net.

“Thinking back on the first two periods, we did everything we could to lose that game,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “There was one player who wouldn’t let us lose it and that was Hank. He played unreal.”

New York built a 2-1 lead in the first period despite being outshot 15-10. Vesey tied it 1-all at 9:55, scoring off a scramble in front of Schneider. Holden put the Rangers ahead a little more than two minutes later, lifting the rebound of Chris Kreider’s shot over Schneider.

Moore opened the scoring at 7:22, beating Lundqvist with a shot over his shoulder after being set up by Hischier.

Lundqvist was concerned about the Rangers‘ effort in what he called a big game.

“We still found a way to get a point in a game where we didn’t do that many good things,” Lundqvist said. “You have to give Jersey credit. They played really well. They had good speed. The biggest thing is I felt like they wanted it more.”

NOTES: Holden’s goal was his first in 20 games. … Moore played in his 400th NHL game. Devils teammate Brian Gibbons played in his 100th game. … Devils rookie Jesper Bratt was scratched with a foot injury. … New Jersey LW Marcus Johansson returned to the lineup after missing four games with an ankle injury. … The Rangers have earned at least one point in six of their last seven games (4-1-2) and in 22 of their last 29 games (18-7-4).

UP NEXT

Rangers: Host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Devils: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.

___

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey


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