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Devils’ special teams slump emerges as concern

Brad Richards, Artem Anisimov

New York Rangers’ Brad Richards, center, and Artem Anisimov, right, of Russia, celebrate after teammate Dan Girardi, not pictured, scored against the New Jersey Devils during the third period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference final playoff series, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Newark, N.J. The Rangers won 3-0. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)


After breaking an NHL record for penalty killing efficiency, the New Jersey Devils raised eyebrows by struggling mightily against the Florida Panthers’ power play in round one. The Devils survived that issue to advance and then turned the tide against the Philadelphia Flyers, yet special teams is becoming a concern yet again as they trail the New York Rangers 2-1 in the Eastern Conference finals.

Generating a 3-for-10 success rate isn’t towering, but either way, the Rangers have scored a PP goal in all three contests so far (including one on just two chances in Game 3). Meanwhile, Ilya Kovalchuk scored the Devils’ only PP goal in the series as New Jersey is just 1-for-12.

Dainius Zubrus took the blame for the Dan Girardi PP tally that ended up being the game-winner for the Rangers, as he told Tom Gulitti.

Dainius Zubrus said he was “way out of position” Girardi PPG. He jumped in on lost draw, leaving Girardi with the wide open shot.

It’s great that Zubrus is owning up to that mistake, but the question must be asked: what will Devils coach Peter DeBoer do to turn the tide? So far, it’s been a tight series - Saturday’s contest was 0-0 going into the third, for example - which places every weakness under a spotlight. Special teams could make or break this series for New Jersey; so far, that factor - plus Henrik Lundqvist’s goaltending - is making the big difference.