When the puck dropped at center ice on Oct. 5, 1982, the Hudson River rivalry was born and it hasn’t let up or disappointed since.
Every regular and postseason match up between the two clubs, whose home arenas are less than 10 miles apart, is entertaining to say the least.
The Devils have always taken pleasure in putting one in the win column and vice versa.
However, tonight’s contest takes on a special significance because of the precarious place both teams hold in the standings.
The Devils are barely hanging onto the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by a string and the Rangers are tugging away at it. Their cross-river rivals are just two points behind.
When this lockout shortened season began in the NHL, the Devils were labeled as last year’s fluke by knocking the Rangers out to go to the Stanley Cup Finals and the Rangers were the team to beat.
The Hockey News, the sports’ bible of the ice, picked the Devils to finish eleventh due to the loss of workhorse Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild. Meanwhile, the Rangers were the talk of the league with the acquisition of former Columbus Blue Jackets’ hot shot, Rick Nash. They were supposed to dominate the east.
In January when the puck finally dropped, the Devils started the season on fire and the Rangers fizzled.
Yet, with 19 games left in the year, both teams may end up outside looking in, which makes tonight’s meeting more than just another stop along the rivalry train.
“It’s like playoff hockey and this is a must win for both teams,” Clarkson said in an interview with The Star Ledger. “You look at the standings and where we are. Every game is so important. Everybody is close.”
Devils’ million dollar man, Ilya Kovalchuk agreed. “It’s important for sure. It’s a four-point game. If you look in the standings now, it’s a dogfight. That’s how it will be until the end of the year.”
For sure, with the Devils two points away from ninth place and four tallies out of fifth, every point is at a premium.
So, the question remains: who will come out on top?
Well, in this latest match up the Rangers drew first blood with Michael Del Zotto knocking one past Hedberg. It didn’t take long for the Devils to answer back with one from the slumping Travis Zajac. A few minutes later the two teams traded goals and the first period ended knotted. The streaking Rick Nash would net the go ahead in the second.
As usual, the Hudson River battle featured the usual chippiness and feisty play. There were jaw-dropping saves at both ends of the ice by Johan Hedberg and his counterpart, the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist. In the end, though, Nash’s goal would be enough and the Rangers would come out on top, closing the gap between the two clubs for now.
In over 200 regular season meetings between them, the Rangers continue to hold the edge with 102 wins.
Dawn Miller is a New Jersey Devils writer for www.RantSports.com. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dawnsmiller, “Like” her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dawn-Miller/393662124056436 or add her to your network on Google.