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dueling shutouts

Devils Prevail in a Goaltending Duel for the Ages

The Rangers may have played in their best game of the season last night: a 1–0 affair in which the only puck that crossed the goal line did so in the fourth round of the shootout. Unfortunately for them, that puck came off the stick of Patrick Elias and got past Henrik Lundqvist, who's credited with the rare combination of a shutout and an overtime loss.

Lundqvist was as sharp as he's been all year — his 45 saves matched a career high — but Martin Brodeur was just as good. He added to his NHL record shutout tally with two firsts: his 51 saves marked the first time he stopped more than 50 in a shutout, and he blanked the Rangers for the first time in the regular season at the Garden. (That second one is especially hard to believe.) Brodeur was a little bit lucky, too: In overtime, Marian Gaborik banked the puck off Brodeur and got it behind the Devils goaltender, but it slid slowly and harmlessly into the post. If nothing else, this game should excite you about the possibility of a Canada-Sweden gold-medal Olympic game. (They are, after all, the last two Olympic champions.)

Even in defeat, though, it's hard not to look at the positives here: The Rangers have still lost just one game in regulation in their last 13, and better still, they skated stride for stride with the best team in the conference for 65 minutes and the first three rounds of the shootout. (The one exception: Erik Christensen's ugly attempt to kick off said shootout.) And as we've said before, this team won't go anywhere without Lundqvist at the top of his game. If he plays like he did last night, they'll earn two points far more often than they'll earn one.

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Photo: Getty Images