NEW YORK — Ryan Carter snapped a tie with 4:24 left, and the Devils posted a 5-3 victory over the Rangers on Wednesday night to pull within one victory of their first Stanley Cup final since 2003.
The Devils blew a three-goal lead in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final before Carter, and then an empty-netter by Zach Parise, gave them a 3-2 lead in the series.
"By any means it wasn't our best game," Parise said. "We have to be a lot better if we want to close this thing out, but a win is a win."
The Devils seemed primed for an easy win when Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias scored within the first 4:13 of the game. Travis Zajac made it 3-0 at 9:49, but that goal seemed to wake up the Rangers, who began chipping away.
The Rangers didn't play badly from the start, said goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who had 12 saves in giving up more than three goals in the playoffs this year for the first time. "(The Devils) just got the goals."
Brandon Prust brought New York within 3-1 before the first period was over, and Ryan Callahan made it a one-goal game in the first minute of the second. Marian Gaborik tied it at 3 just 17 seconds into the third with his first goal of the series.
Then, with 4:24 left in regulation, Gionta sent a pass in front to Carter — who had just charged in front from the bench — for a quick shot that beat Lundqvist.
"We felt like we stole this one," Elias said.
A number of Rangers, and coach John Tortorella, said they played their best game of the series as a team.
"We'll go through our day (today), regroup, and I have a tremendous amount of confidence in how we'll react to this." Tortorella said.
First Period—1, N.J., Gionta 3 (Fayne, Bernier), 2:43. 2, N.J., Elias 4 (Henrique, Kovalchuk), 4:13. 3, N.J., Zajac 7 (Parise, Salvador), 9:49. 4, NYR, Prust 1 (Fedotenko, Stepan), 15:41. Penalties—Fayne, NJ (boarding), 10:08.
Second Period—5, NYR, Callahan 5 (Anisimov, Dubinsky), :32. Penalties—Zubrus, NJ (hooking), 3:12; Prust, NYR (slashing), 7:19; Harrold, NJ (roughing), 9:32; Prust, NYR (unsportsmanlike conduct), 9:32; Fedotenko, NYR (boarding), 15:51.
Third Period—6, NYR, Gaborik 5, :17. 7, N.J., Carter 3 (Gionta, Zidlicky), 15:36. 8, N.J., Parise 7 (Kovalchuk, Fayne), 19:28 (en). Penalties—Bernier, NJ (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:55; Del Zotto, NYR (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:55. Shots on Goal—N.J. 6-5-6—17. NYR 9-11-8—28. Power plays —N.J. 0 of 2; NYR 0 of 2. Goalies—N.J., Brodeur 11-5-0 (28 shots-25 saves). NYR, Lundqvist 10-9-0 (16-12)
Lightning a contender for Swiss star wing
The Lightning is a "serious contender" for the services of Swiss star Damien Brunner, his agent said.
"I would say Tampa is serious about Damien. I would say Damien is serious about Tampa," Neil Sheehy said.
That Brunner, 26, a highly skilled, fleet-skating right wing, has been released from his contract with Zug of Switzerland's elite league should accelerate negotiations.
Brunner likely will sign before the June 22-23 draft, Sheehy said, adding that several teams are interested. The Penguins have been reported to be keeping an eye on Brunner, too.
"We have a lot of work to do between now and his decision," Sheehy said. "But I know Damien was very, very impressed with (Tampa Bay general manager) Steve Yzerman. … They have met, and there's interest on both sides."
Yzerman did not respond to several text messages seeking comment.
Brunner had team bests this season of 24 goals, 36 assists and 60 points in 45 games. He also had three goals, seven points in seven games for Switzerland at the world championship this month.
around the league: The Canucks signed coach Alain Vigneault to a contract extension he said was for two years, ending speculation the team's first-round playoff loss to the Kings might get him fired a year after Vancouver made the Stanley Cup final. No financial terms were reported. … The Wild signed high-scoring Finnish forward Mikael Granlund — its ninth overall picked in the 2010 draft and, his agent says, the most-Googled athlete in Finland — to a three-year, $2.7 million entry-level deal.
echl: The Lightning's affiliate, the Florida Everblades, won its first league championship with a 3-2 overtime win over Las Vegas in Estero. Florida, an affiliate the Lightning shares with the Hurricanes, won the series 4-1.
Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.