We're less than a week away from the start of the Stanley Cup Finals, and the New Jersey Devils are a win away from getting there.
New Jersey moved a step away from a trip to the championship series with Wednesday night's 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Devils exploded to an early three-zip advantage before needing a pair of late goals to claim the triumph.
The win gave New Jersey a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals as the scene shifts back to Newark's Prudential Center for Game 6 on Friday (8:00 p.m. ET). Opening numbers showed the Devils as 130 favorites, but that money line has since been bet down to -120 to -125 at most shops listed on the Don Best odds screen.
Friday's total is 4½ goals and favors the 'over.'
New Jersey charged out of the gate with three first-period goals, the first by Stephen Gionta less than three minutes into the contest. Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac followed with lamp-lighters over the course of the next seven minutes, and it appeared that a Devils rout was on.
New York got on the board with a little more than four minutes remaining in the first when Brandon Prust netted his first goal of the playoffs, and Ryan Callahan followed just 32 seconds into the second period with his fifth postseason score.
The Rangers tied it with Marian Gaborik's goal just 17 seconds into the third, and the momentum seemed to have completely swung in New York's favor with the packed MSG crowd sensing more magic from their Blueshirts.
It never came as New Jersey's Ryan Carter scored what proved to be the game winner with about 4½ minutes remaining. Zach Parise added an empty netter to complete the evening's scoring.
The eight combined goals were the most for either team this postseason, and it came in a contest that totaled just 45 shots on goal, 28 by New York and 17 for New Jersey.
It also came in a game in which both teams kept their emotions in check after a very contentious Game 4 that spilled over from the ice to the benches where coaches Peter DeBoer of the Devils and John Tortorella of the Rangers even got into a shouting match. With the exception of a few third-period penalties, including unsportsmanlike conduct calls at the very end on New York's Michael Del Zotto and New Jersey's Steve Bernier, the contest was played without incident.
The lack of penalties limited both squads to just a pair of power play opportunities, and neither team was able to capitalize. New York has only had three power play chances in the last two games, failing to score on any, and is 4-for-13 with the advantage for the series. New Jersey is 2-for-20 with a man advantage.
Wednesday's final left the 'over' 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, each game listed with a 4½-goal total. New York is 9-4-6 'under' for the playoffs while New Jersey checks into Game 6 with an 8-6-3 lean to the 'over.'
New York has been up against it in must-win games three times this postseason, and managed to win all three. The first two came in Games 6 and 7 of the opening-round series with Ottawa before going the full seven in the conference semis vs. Washington. If the Rangers can force a seventh game in this series, it will be played at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night (8:00 ET).