Series (Game 4 of 5)

New Jersey leads 3-1

Game 1: Wednesday, October 17th
Game 2: Wednesday, December 19th
Game 3: Thursday, January 17th
Game 4: Tuesday, February 26th
Game 5: Saturday, March 16th

Devils 4

(26-21-3, 64 pts)

Rangers 3

(27-26-3, 61 pts)

7:00 PM ET, February 26, 2002

Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

1 2 3 T
NJ 2 0 24
NYR 1 2 03

S. Gomez (Devils - C): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

S. Brylin (Devils - LW): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

T. Fleury (Rangers - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Break doesn't help Rangers' third-period woes

NEW YORK (AP) -- The 12-day Olympic break made Scott Gomez's goal-scoring drought seem even longer.

Gomez scored twice, and Canada's gold medal-winning goalie Martin Brodeur made 21 saves as the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Tuesday night.

Scott Gomez

The Devils' Scott Gomez scored the first of two goals on Dan Blackburn in the first period Tuesday.

Gomez scored the game-winner at 10:36 of the third period when he sliced across the crease and tapped in a pass from Bobby Holik. It was his first goal since Jan. 10.

"I'm not going to be a 50-goal scorer, but I can put the puck on net," Gomez said. "It was a huge win and it was good to score, because it's been a long time between goals."

New Jersey's Jay Pandolfo tied it at 3 at 6:32 of the third, as the Rangers faded late.

"We talked about not turning the puck over in the neutral zone and right at our blue line, and we did it too many times," Rangers coach Ron Low said. "In the third period, it really cost us."

On the league's first night of games since the Olympics, fingerprints of Olympians were all over the ice at Madison Square Garden.

Brodeur felt well enough to play, while his Rangers and U.S. Olympic counterpart Mike Richter, sat. Daniel Blackburn started in goal for New York and made 23 saves.

"I felt a little tired yesterday," Brodeur said, "then it was great sleeping in my own bed after being away for weeks. I felt good today. (Coach) said 'You want to go?' and I said, 'It's up to you guys.' I felt really good."

Scott Niedermayer, who also won gold, scored for the Devils and logged the most time of any New Jersey player.

Eric Lindros and Theo Fleury, also members of Team Canada, scored for the Rangers. U.S. defenseman Brian Leetch, who logged New York's high in ice time, had an assist. Fleury added an assist, and the Czech Republic's Radek Dvorak also had one for New York.

Fleury, prone to penalties this season, was given a tripping penalty and then a 10-minute misconduct late in the third period, irking Low.

"He can't keep doing this," Low said sternly.

As for the remedy?

"I guess what you have to do is sit him," he said. "What has to happen is that I talk to him (Wednesday) and tell him we really need him on the ice, not throwing temper tantrums every time a penalty is called against him."

Fleury wasn't contrite after the game, complaining the referees are targeting him in a "personal" campaign to keep him from playing his game.

"I'm not going to change the way I play," Fleury said. "If I do, I might as well sit and watch on TV.

"If I'm not allowed to play the way I can play, maybe it's time to retire and hang up the blades. ... I can't get any respect. I'm tired of these borderline calls. Like I said, maybe it's time to hang it up."

Fleury's late penalty prevented him from taking his normal spot on the Rangers' power play in the final 1:19 of the game.

Late in the second period, Fleury gave the Rangers their first and only lead, 3-2, after trailing 2-0 early. Fleury placed himself just outside the crease and battled hard for position against much larger players. His stubbornness paid off as he redirected a shot by Tomas Kloucek despite facing away from the goal.

Early in the second, Lindros tied it at 2 as the Rangers peppered Brodeur on the power play. Lindros batted in a rebound of Fleury's shot as Leetch earned his 900th point with an assist.

Leetch became just the ninth defenseman ever to reach that milestone.

The Devils took a 2-0 lead with goals by Gomez and Niedermayer 44 seconds apart before five minutes expired.

New York's Mikael Samuelsson made it 2-1 with a short-handed goal at 8:25.

Game notes

The Devils activated John Vanbiesbrouck before the game to be Brodeur's backup. ... Richter didn't dress, and the team recalled Johan Holmqvist to back up Blackburn. ... The game marked the debut of Larry Robinson as New Jersey's assistant coach. Robinson was fired as head coach and replaced by Kevin Constantine on Jan. 28. ... Andreas Johansson, who missed 11 games with a broken wrist, returned to the Rangers' lineup while Mark Messier (shoulder) did not play. Messier was examined by a doctor during the game and is in the process of determining if he will need season-ending surgery. ... A highlight video of Team Canada winning the gold medal drew a smattering of boos from the crowd. ... Nine of the twelve Olympians from both teams started.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press