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Cullen: Parise, Salvador, Brodeur help Devils even series

Scott Cullen
5/21/2012 11:43:01 PM
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The New Jersey Devils evened up their series with the New York Rangers, winning Game Four by a 4-1 score.

In a crucial game, the Devils were led by Zach Parise, who scored two goals and an assist, his first three-point game in the playoffs since April 26, 2007 (vs. Ottawa).

Bryce Salvador continued his unlikely offensive contributions, bringing a goal and an assist to the Game Four party, giving him 10 points in 16 playoff games after nine points in 82 regular season games.

Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur also registered his record-setting fourth assist of the postseason. It's not a surprise, coming from one of the all-time great puckhandling goaltenders, but this is the second time in his career that he's recorded more than one point in a playoff season.

Just as importantly, Brodeur stopped 28 of 29 shots sent his way by the Rangers, the sixth straight game that Brodeur has allowed two or fewer goals against.

From the Rangers' perspective, coach John Tortorella benched defenceman Michael Del Zotto after he was beaten on the play leading to the Devils' second goal. Del Zotto got some ice time late to finish with 11:39 time on ice for the game, easily his lowest of the season (14:15 was his regular-season low, 18:44 -- Game Three of this series -- was his playoff low). It has also been reported that Del Zotto's grandmother died over the weekend and it's easy to see how that grief could affect his performance.

Del Zotto was the Rangers' top scoring defenceman during the regular season and, with a late third period assist in Game Four, he has 10 points in 18 playoff games. It's not the first time that an offensive player has been benched in this series (regular-season leading scorer Marian Gaborik was benched in the Game Two loss) and that's not a luxury the Rangers really have when they are trying to come from behind against the Devils.

The Rangers may not have enough talent to win this series, but surely don't have enough talent to overcome the Devils without using their best lineup. While, from game to game, players like Gaborik and Del Zotto may not be the Rangers' best, it's a long uphill climb for the Rangers to score enough goals to win when they are consciously cutting the minutes of skilled players.

By the same token, the Rangers need more production from skilled players like Gaborik, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin, each of whom is seeking his first point in the series. There are only so many times that the Blueshirts can turn to the combination of Dan Girardi and Chris Kreider and expect it to work out in the end.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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