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At first it looked like the story of Game 5 would be about how the Devils have been the better team in this series.
Then it looked like it would be another tale of the Rangers' resiliency when the chips were down. Ultimately both of those would have some truth, but the only story that matters at the end is that the Devils need one more win to eliminate the Rangers.
Ryan Carter stuffed home a Stephen Gionta feed late in the third period to salvage what might have been an epic Devils collapse and turn it into a 5-3 victory. That means Game Six will be a do or die affair for the Rangers, who looked pretty dead when the game started.
The Devils scored three times before the Rangers even seemed to realize the game was underway, raising serious questions about how worn down the team might be at this point in the season. And then they scored three straight goals to make such questions seem silly.
It was one of the stranger first periods of the entire playoffs. Despite the fact that they allowed three goals on the first five shots, the Rangers actually played their best opening period of the series.
The problem was that they didn't start playing it until the Devils were already up 3-0 and that Henrik Lundqvist was one of the slow starters this time around. Two of the goals were plays that Lundqvist should have made, although Gionta's opening tally also came with a supersized helping of poor Rangers defense that left him all alone for a rebound that Lundqvist can't allow.
Once they spotted the Devils the lead, though, the Rangers started to bring their game. They took more shots, drove harder to the net and Brandon Prust finally scored with just over four minutes to go to spark the crowd back to life.
Through it all, it was hard not to notice that Brodeur looked fairly uncomfortable handling the puck and holding onto rebounds. In short, there was a lot of reason to believe the Rangers had a shot to come back and take the game if you ignored the 3-1 score.
It got even easier to believe 32 seconds into the second period when Artem Anisimov threw a puck off Ryan Callahan's leg in the crease for a tying goal. The Garden was rocking now and Callahan would keep them that way the rest of the period.
He would hit the inside of a post, causing the goal light to go on before the refs signaled no goal, and hit everything in sight as the Rangers again dominated play over a Devils team that looked awfully shellshocked considering they were still winning the game. A couple of dumb Ranger penalties helped sap momentum, but Callahan created one juicy scoring chance on one penalty kill to keep the Rangers in control.
Remember what we said about a shaky Brodeur? It came up again 17 seconds into the third period when he tried to play a puck behind the net but wound up handing it right to Marian Gaborik.
Gaborik, held without a goal in the first four games of the series, banked off Brodeur and Derek Stepan helped push it in for a tying goal that loosed as wild a noise from the Garden as you'll ever hear. The cheering eventually morphed into a loud, sustained "Marty Marty" chant punctuated with everyone in the building pointing their giveaway towels right at Brodeur.
From there, things went pretty nutty as the game took on a frantic quality that was more about excitement than execution. The Rangers still carried the play, but the Devils got a few chances as they tried to scramble their way back to life after such a long stretch on their heels.
Still, their best chance came off the stick of Brad Richards. Yes, you read that right, Brad Richards from the Rangers.
While trying to put the puck around the back boards, Richards instead fired it right at Lundqvist and the Rangers goalie had to make a quick save. It was very nearly one of the worst moments in Rangers history, one that might have caused John Tortorella to go on a killing spree, but the fates had other plans for the evening.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, the fates weren't planning on a win for the home team. Gionta won a battle for a puck, Carter beat a sluggish Hagelin and, after an empty net goal by Zach Parise, the Devils are a game away from playing for the Cup.
That should sound familiar to Rangers fans. They've been here before and a certain guarantee paved the way to redemption.
Who's gonna step up this time?