NHL: Devils fend off Rangers, keep 2nd place in division

Vitek Vanecek made 24 saves and Erik Haula and Timo Meier scored first-period goals as the host New Jersey Devils remained in second place in the Metropolitan Division with a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers Thursday night in Newark, N.J.

Vanecek joined Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur as the second goalie to win 30 games in a single season for the Devils. Brodeur won at least 30 games 14 times during his storied career.

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The Devils (47-20-8, 102 points) won three of four meetings (3-0-1) with the Rangers to move four points ahead of their likely first-round playoff opponent. New Jersey earned its 35th regulation win, one more than the Rangers, and regulation wins are the first tiebreaker.

Vanecek helped New Jersey rebound from Monday’s 5-1 loss to the host New York Islanders by making several key saves in the final period.

He made a left skate save on Vincent Trocheck with 11:49 remaining, then used his right pad to stop Vladimir Tarasenko’s backhand try. He made a right pad save on Trocheck with 8:23 remaining, and then had help from defenseman Ryan Graves in the final minute.

With the Rangers deploying six skaters, the puck was loose in the crease behind Vanecek. Tarasenko had an empty net, but Graves cleared the puck in time before the Rangers could get the easy goal.

Chris Kreider scored a power-play goal for the Rangers (44-21-10, 98 points) who fell to 9-2-1 in their past 12 contests. Igor Shesterkin made 29 saves.

Haula opened the scoring at 5:17 just after winning an offensive zone faceoff against Filip Chytil. Jonas Siegenthaler moved the puck to Dougie Hamilton at the left point, and the defenseman’s pass was tipped in when Haula went to the front of the net.

New Jersey opened a 2-0 lead during a power play with 2:57 left when Meier took a pass from Hughes and sent a slap shot from the outer edge of the left circle over Shesterkin.

The Rangers made it a one-goal game with 6:36 remaining in the second when Mika Zibanejad hit Kreider with a cross-ice pass after an errant clearing pass by Graves. Kreider parked himself at the left side of the crease and lifted the puck past Vanecek.

–Field Level Media

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