- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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What it means: The opening-faceoff line brawl was well-orchestrated, but the hatred between the Rangers and Devils was altogether genuine in a nasty series finale that ended with a playoff-clinching 4-2 win for the Blueshirts at Madison Square Garden. A whopping 40 penalty minutes were dished out between both clubs as fists flew three seconds into the game, and although the Devils pulled within a goal twice in the second period, the Rangers held on to become the first team in the East to secure a berth in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs and snap a two-game losing streak.
Rough Stuff: Tempers flared as a total of six players dropped the gloves on the opening face-off. Taking the draw at center ice, defenseman-turned-center Stu Bickel paired up with Ryan Carter, while heavyweights Mike Rupp and Eric Boulton fought, as did Cam Janssen and Brandon Prust. Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador also received a 10-minute misconduct for stepping in to Carter’s aid when the fourth-line forward was left bloodied in his fight with Bickel. Carter left the ice to receive stitches but returned later in the first period.
No love lost: The players weren’t the only ones immersed in the opening-faceoff hostilities. Video replays showed Rangers coach John Tortorella screaming and cursing at the Devils' bench, presumably at opposing coach Pete DeBoer. As the visiting coach, DeBoer sets his starting lineup first and elected to give his fourth line the nod. Tortorella appeared to receive the message, using Bickel to take the opening faceoff instead of natural pivot Brandon Dubinsky, who suffered injuries in a fight with Carter in the two teams' previous meeting. Tortorella did decide to sit tough guy John Scott, however. The hulking 6-8, 260-pound enforcer was scratched after taking pregame warmups.
Not so stingy: And while the marquee matchup between Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur is normally the main event when the two teams meet, Monday's contest was no goal-tending duel as both players looked a little ragged.
Hot hand: With his second goal in as many games, recently-recalled Mats Zuccarello buried a rebound on the power-play to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead at 7:33 of the second. The diminutive Norwegian forward gave New York its first man-up goal in four games.
Just like old times: Linemates from the Devils Stanley Cup championship-winning team in 2000, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora combined for two goals in the second period. Set up by Sykora, Elias beat Lundqvist short-side to cut a two-goal Rangers lead in half at 5:03; Sykora then buried a sharp-angle shot to whittle the lead again to one goal at 11:08. With his second-period marker, Elias recorded the seventh 25-goal season in his 15-year career; it was the first time the 35-year-old Czech reached the milestone since '08-'09.
Dubinsky breaks through: With the crowd buzzing after the opening theatrics, Dubinsky scored his first goal in seven games, beating Brodeur from the slot to convert on a rush, to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead 1:11 into play.
Up next: Rangers vs. Red Wings, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.; Devils vs. Senators, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
What it means: The opening-faceoff line brawl was well-orchestrated, but the hatred between the Rangers and Devils was altogether genuine in a nasty series finale that ended with a playoff-clinching 4-2 win for the Blueshirts at Madison Square Garden.