NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils aren’t going away. The fade everyone expected isn’t happening.
David Schlemko scored on a power play with 8:46 left and the Devils rallied twice to beat the Rangers 3-2 on Tuesday night, pulling within two points of New York for second place in the very tight Metropolitan Division.
"These are fun ones to play in," Schlemko said. "It doesn’t take much to get up for these. There is a lot at stake. The division is tight right now. I think there are five or six teams within a point or two so every win in a game like this is huge."
The Rangers are a point ahead of the Islanders with the Penguins and Devils tied at 57 points.
"I think it's easier to not standings watch when you are winning," said Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, who made 31 saves. "When you are losing you are checking to see how much damage is being done. I think we know the situation."
Lee Stempniak and Joseph Blandisi also scored and the surprising Devils beat the Rangers for the second straight time this season. It was the fifth win in six games for a team chasing its first playoff berth in four years.
J.T. Miller scored twice for New York, which came within a goalpost of tying it on a shot by Ryan McDonagh. Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves.
"We did a lot of good things and I don't think we gave them much chance wise," said Miller, who has six goals in five games. "Sometimes you have to bear down and find a way. They did that and we didn't."
The game was decided by special teams. The Devils were 2 for 2 with the extra skater and they killed off all four Rangers power plays.
Schlemko's winner came with Oscar Lindberg off for interference. The Devils won the faceoff and Rangers forward Derick Brassard broke his stick blocking a shot. Tyler Kennedy sent the puck to Stempniak along the goal line, and the pass deflected off McDonagh's stick and glided to Schlemko for a shot into the top corner, his fifth goal of the season.
The goal came about a minute after Schlemko made a behind-the-back pass that McDonagh intercepted, giving him a breakaway. He missed the net with his shot.
"It's a pretty helpless feeling to watch him go down on a breakaway. I was lucky I had a chance to redeem myself at the end," Schlemko said.
McDonagh got another chance on the Rangers' final power play and hit a goalpost.
"It's really frustrating," McDonagh said. "We need everybody to execute a lot better. It's costing us too many games. We need to be a lot better in the special teams."
Miller put New York ahead at 2:06 of the third with his second goal of the game. Keith Yandle skated from the point to between the circles and found Miller in the right circle. It was Miller's 15th goal of the season.
Blandisi tied the game at 2-all with his second career goal. He took a pass off the boards from Andy Greene, skated around defenceman Dan Girardi and snapped a shot between Lundqvist's pads.
Stempniak, who scored the winner in overtime in the teams' meeting earlier this season, tied the score early in the second period on a power play. Eric Gelinas took a shot from straight on and Stempniak, standing with a skate in the crease in front of Lundqvist, slammed home the rebound for his 15th goal.
The Rangers challenged the goal, saying that Stempniak interfered with Lundqvist by turning into the netminder. The officials reviewed the goal and it stood.
Miller gave the Rangers the lead with 6:29 left in the first period, capping a 2-on-1 with Brassard with his 14th goal. Jesper Fast set up the odd-man rush with a pass off the side boards in his own end, and the red-hot Miller converted into a wide-open net.
Both teams were missing top forwards. Rick Nash of the Rangers missed his third straight game with a bone bruise and Mike Cammalleri of the Devils was out with an upper-body injury.
NOTES: Alain Vigneault coached in his 1,020th NHL game, taking over No. 19 career from the late Pat Burns. ... The Rangers had not given up a power-play goal in their previous four games. ... Devils D John Moore missed his third straight with a lower-body injury. ... Devils D Seth Helgeson took a minor for a hit to the head against Daniel Paille, who seemed to have a bloody nose. ... Rangers D Kevin Klein left the game late after being hit into the boards.