NHL

Cullen: Henrique's heroics send Devils to Stanley Cup Final

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Scott Cullen
5/26/2012 12:01:42 AM
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Devils rookie Adam Henrique scored his second overtime series-winning goal of the playoffs, giving the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 win in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final. The win sends the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2003.

In addition to a game-high six shots on goal and an assist on Henrique's game-winner, Ilya Kovalchuk added a goal for the Devils in Game Six, giving him six points in the series (tied with Zach Parise for the team lead) and lifting Kovalchuk to a playoff-leading 18 points.

New Jersey continues to get contributions from their fourth line, as Ryan Carter opened the scoring, with assists to Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. The trio combined for nine points in the series.

The Rangers fell behind early, down 2-0 in the first 14 minutes of the game but, much like Game Five, the Rangers rallied, scoring twice in the second period, and held the territorial edge after they were down by a couple goals.

Ruslan Fedotenko got the Rangers on the board, and he tied Dan Girardi (whose shots was deflected in for the second goal) for the Rangers' scoring lead in the series with five points. With all due respect to those guys, that was part of the Rangers' problem -- that Fedotenko and Girardi were scoring more than Brad Richards (four points) and, most obviously, Marian Gaborik (one point, though he had a team-high 19 shots on goal).

With the Rangers' season on the line, rookie Chris Kreider ended up playing just 9:33, the first time in the series that he played fewer than 15 minutes in a game. He did tie for the team lead with four hits.

For the playoffs as a whole, the Rangers didn't score enough. Sure, they reached the Final Four and were within an overtime goal of forcing Game Seven, but Richards led the team with 15 points in 20 games, followed by Girardi with 12. Top scorers needed to produce more, but so too did the supporting cast. Derek Stephan and Carl Hagelin, for example, scored one goal in 35 games between them, while playing significant minutes on scoring lines.

What ought to be particularly galling for the Rangers, though, is that they were thoroughly outplayed early in the series, yet somehow managed to split the first four games, but then they carried the play in the last two games -- needing to come back from a multi-goal deficit to tie both game -- and came away second-best in both games

And now the sixth-seeded Devils head to an unlikely Stanley Cup Final, facing the eighth-seeded Kings. From what we've seen in the playoffs, both teams have played significantly better than the numbers attached to those seeds. That is, they haven't won by luck so much as they have by winning the way consistently good teams tend to win.

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.

Ilya Kovalchuk (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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