NEW YORK — While Martin Brodeur kept a close watch on Sean Avery, Henrik Lundqvist focused on a shutout.
Avery took everything the New Jersey Devils threw at him in a physical sense, and Lundqvist turned aside all 38 shots the slumping Atlantic Division leaders fired his way in sending the New York Rangers to a 3-0 victory on Monday night.
"I haven't had as many as last year," Lundqvist said of his third shutout of the season. "I'm happy for this one. Guys worked really hard for me. I made up my mind before the third period I wanted this one."
Lundqvist earned his 20th NHL shutout, 10 of which came last season. Brodeur is two behind Terry Sawchuk's career league record of 103.
So much was made of the Avery-Brodeur matchup, the first since Brodeur returned from a 50-game injury absence, and Avery came back to the Rangers after a failed stint in Dallas. Not much drama materialized there, but Avery was certainly a target.
Avery annoyed David Clarkson enough in the third period to get the New Jersey enforcer off the ice.
The two were locked up in the Rangers zone, with Clarkson tugging on Avery, who chose not to drop the gloves. Clarkson kept pulling until Avery fell to the ice face first. Clarkson got a double penalty for roughing plus a misconduct. Avery earned only two minutes for roughing.
"It's a 3-0 game at that point, I don't think that there's anything to gain by doing anything," Avery said. "It certainly takes discipline for sure. You fight for your team and for your teammates. At that point I didn't need to fight for either of them."
Clarkson was trying to spark his team that has scored only six goals during a season-high, five-game skid (0-4-1).
Brandon Dubinsky and defenseman Dan Girardi scored 2:04 apart during New York's three-goal second period. Ryan Callahan added his 21st goal for the Rangers, who bounced back from a disappointing 0-1-1 road trip and moved within a point of sixth-place Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
New York (40-28-9) also stretched its lead to four points over Florida, which is below the postseason cutoff.
Soon after staying restrained against Clarkson, Avery flattened Johnny Oduya against the boards, drawing chants of his name from the crowd.
New Jersey received only two power plays, both in the third.
The Devils have already clinched a playoff berth and lead the Atlantic by six points over Philadelphia, but have dropped six of seven (1-5-1) since Brodeur broke Patrick Roy's NHL career record for wins by a goalie.
Lundqvist, who made 19 saves in the second, earned his 35th win. His best stops came in the second when he made a quick save with his left pad on Brian Rolston and then kicked out Bobby Holik's hard drive on the rebound.
Dubinsky started the scoring 4:35 into the second with his 11th goal and third in five games after going 23 without one. That started the taunting of Brodeur, who heard derisive chants as the Rangers built and nursed their lead.
Girardi doubled the advantage at 6:39, and Callahan made it 3-0 with 4:54 left in the second. It was his fifth goal in seven games.
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