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This Battle for the Hudson Goes to the Devils

Rangers can't match Devils' intensity in 4-1 loss

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Mar 29, 2012  |  Updated 11:39 AM EDT
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The King couldn't carry his court on Tuesday night.

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With the playoffs drawing closer and closer, it's hard not to look for messages about what might happen in the postseason during every game.

The message from Tuesday night's 4-1 Devils victory over the Rangers is that nothing is even close to guaranteed for the Rangers because they have the best record in hockey so close to the end of the season.

They should have known that already since history has been unkind to Presidents Cup winners in the chase for that other Cup, but now there aren't any excuses.

That's not to say that anyone should be putting their head into their hands for a good long cry because the Rangers lost this game and looked pretty bad doing it. One bad night doesn't erase lots of good ones, especially when the Devils played the kind of desperate game that they had to play given their recent run of losses.

Matching that kind of desperation is difficult when you would have to be an actor on the level of Olivier to put yourself into that frame of mind. It doesn't help when normally sturdy pillars of your team like Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi play sloppy games or that Brandon Dubinsky injures himself fighting on a team that has plenty of guys better suited to the task.

It was an off night and the Rangers are entitled to one of those every now and again. The Devils also have the kind of team that should be worrisome now and in the playoffs.

Martin Brodeur, who played very well on Tuesday, can still win a game in net and the Devils have the kind of double-barreled scoring threats in Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise that the Rangers have been looking for all season. Kovalchuk was particularly good on Tuesday, scoring one goal and pressuring the Rangers all night, and he'd be a beast over the course of a seven-game series.

So would Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins, especially if, as expected, Sidney Crosby is back riding alongside him come the playoffs. The Rangers' lead over the Penguins in the division is down to eight points with two games coming up against the Pens in short order.

Perhaps that will be reason enough to get some urgency, if not desperation, back into their game. They definitely needed it on Tuesday night, but the nice thing about having a cushion in the standings is that you give yourself time to find it before there's any need to panic.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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