Devils follow recipe for success

NEW YORK -- It was big to have Ilya Kovalchuk score the first goal of the Eastern Conference finals for the New Jersey Devils.

But then there was also the little and the unexpected in Wednesday's Game 2.

Like fourth-liner Ryan Carter tipping home a crucial tying goal late in the second period. Or Gritty David Clarkson tipping home the game-winning third goal against the New York Rangers as the Devils evened this series at one win apiece with a 3-2 victory.

And there was Andy Greene diving and extending himself fully to get an icing call late in the third period as the Devils held back a late Rangers charge. Or rookie Adam Henrique on the ice to take the last couple of crucial draws flanked by Kovalchuk -- himself a man once disparaged for his one-dimensional game.

Or how about Bryce Salvador, whose two-assist performance gives him eight postseason points and settles him among the league leaders among defensemen in offensive production? In his first 50 postseason games, the 36-year-old collected a total of four points.

But this is the Devils' recipe for success.

Take away one of the elements, the big, the little or the unexpected, and their chances of winning go down. But when the recipe is followed, well, they're a formidable group.

"I think everyone's contributing. We're rolling four lines and rolling six D and Marty's making the big saves, so when everyone's contributing good things happen when you're playing your system. It's just not me. Everyone's contributing," Salvador said after Wednesday's crucial win, referring to Martin Brodeur's strong 23-save performance.

Watch the Western Conference finals and you'll see how the Los Angeles Kings have separated themselves so quickly and clearly from the Phoenix Coyotes. And after Game 1 in New York when the Rangers were so good in the third period, scoring three times en route to a 3-0 win, you wondered: Will the same separation exist here?

The Devils instead delivered an impressive counterpunch in sending the Rangers to their third straight loss in Game 2s this spring.

"You can't play with fear. You try to win every game. When we play the right way, we give ourselves a better chance. But there wasn't any talk of we got to win this game, we can't go home down 2-0. You can't think like that, you can't approach a game like that. I think then you're just setting yourself up to lose," said captain Zach Parise, who earned an assist on the Devils' first goal, Kovalchuk's power-play marker in the first period.

"Our mentality was we played well enough to win the first game. It didn't happen. We can get the second one."

The Devils, as they did against Philadelphia in the last round when they lost Game 1 on the road, rededicated themselves to a strong forecheck in evening the series. They forced the Rangers into turnovers and controlled time of possession in a way that was very reminiscent of their five-game series victory over the Flyers.

"That's how we play all playoffs so far," Kovalchuk said. "All four lines are productive and those guys [on the fourth line], they play a lot of minutes, they [are] doing a great job, they're forechecking really well, they give other lines a little rest and they play really good, and Coach trusts them."

If Kovalchuk's goal set an early tone -- the Devils' power play was much more patient in Game 2 in the face of the Rangers' propensity to block shots everywhere on the ice -- the Carter goal was the one that opened the door for victory.

The Rangers had tied the game early in the second period on a Marc Staal shot that caromed off the end boards and into the net off of Brodeur.

They took the lead less than 10 minutes later on another power-play goal, this one by rookie Chris Kreider, who deflected an Anton Stralman shot past Brodeur.

If the Devils seemed deflated in Game 1 when the Rangers broke a scoreless tie in the third period, they responded much better in Game 2. And it was the fourth line of Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier that kept the pressure on the Rangers, leading to Carter's deft tip-in of a Salvador shot to tie the game with 1:51 left in the second period.

"It's going to be a lot of highs and a lot of lows. That's the playoffs, so I think that the team that's going to have the most composure and try not to get too high when you score and not get too low when you get scored against is going to have the most success," Salvador said.

If the Rangers' history this spring is any indication, they will respond much better in Game 3 on Saturday afternoon in New Jersey. Coach John Tortorella wasn't pleased with his team's effort and refused to discuss his benching of Marian Gaborik in the third period.

"We can't get down," said Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who has scored just once in his last 12 postseason games.

"Like I said, we've been in this situation before and we've come through. We'll get a day off tomorrow and we'll be ready to work on Friday."

The problem for the Rangers is that the Devils have been in this situation before as well, which should create even more drama for this New York-area production.

"Every time we've been pushed with our backs up against the wall, in different series through the playoffs, we've come out swinging," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said.

"Our team has a resiliency to it and we usually respond in the right way."