No one who watched the Rangers shut out the Devils last night would say there was a bigger star on the ice than Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers goalie probably wouldn't have given up a goal if the game went three hours, but settled for 38 saves and two huge points to solidify his team's spot in the postseason.
As good as Lundqvist was, however, the lasting memory of the night will be Sean Avery getting thrown to the ice by an irate David Clarkson during the third period. Avery had hammered Johnny Oduya moments before Clarkson skated up to challenge him to a fight. Avery offered no resistance, though, and allowed Clarkson to fling him to the ice twice. That drew 12 minutes of extra penalties for Clarkson and a round of cheers from the Rangers bench.
"You fight for your team and you fight for your teammates and at that point up 3-0, I didn't need to fight for either of them so there really was no point," said Avery. "I was just thinking of a happy place."
The moment was a microcosm of the whole night, as New Jersey seemed distracted and preturbed, by Avery or something else, from the opening faceoff. They'd lost four straight games going into the game, and look nothing like the cool, efficient Devils teams that we've come to know. It's a virtual replay of what happened in March 2008, and the domination at the hands of the Rangers plays right into that.
At this point, you have to assume they'd rather see the 80's Oilers of Gretzky, Messier and Coffey to the Rangers of Lundqvist and Avery. Lundqvist is now 14-2-4 in his career against Brodeur in the regular season, and the Rangers are 10-2-3 when Avery plays against Jersey. The latter record includes last spring's five-game first-round win, something that must be looming heavily when the Devils try to look ahead to who they'll play when the postseason kicks off.