Too much sun forced the boys of winter to wait to play at the ballpark in the Bronx.
Once clouds filled the skies over Yankee Stadium and snow began to fall — hockey weather, for sure — Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers got the best of the New Jersey Devils.
Rick Nash scored for the fifth straight game during New York’s four-goal middle period, and the Rangers rallied for a 7-3 victory over the Devils on Sunday.
Sun reflecting off the ice delayed the start of the first hockey game at Yankee Stadium for about an hour. The wait was expected to be longer, so Lundqvist took a nap. Cloud cover took care of that problem more quickly than expected.
Suddenly, the All-Star goalie was awakened and told warm-ups would take place in 30 minutes. He put on his pinstripe pads, but still looked groggy in the first period when New Jersey took a 3-1 lead.
“I was half asleep, mentally somewhere else, but then I regrouped, and I am happy with how I finished,” Lundqvist said.
“I’m not going to lie, when they scored the third one, I had a bad feeling about it. My first thought was, ‘Am I going to be able to finish this game? Then, you kind of regroup and tell yourself, ‘I need to stop the next shot. That’s it. There is no other way to do this.’”
Devils counterpart Martin Brodeur had no such luck. He allowed six goals on 21 shots, and was replaced by Cory Schneider at the start of the third.
“You rely a lot on instinct, and poise, and I couldn’t close my glove, it was so cold,” said Brodeur, who, along with Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, criticized the chippy ice that required repairs.
New York got within one before the first intermission and then swarmed Brodeur.
Dominic Moore and Marc Staal had goals in the first for the Rangers, then Mats Zuccarello scored two straight to put New York ahead for the first time. Carl Hagelin and Nash found the net, too, behind the beleaguered Brodeur, who angrily swatted the puck away after one of the tallies.
“Most of their goals went in off our players, or a stick or skate, and that happens. It was just one of those nights,” Brodeur said.
Nash has seven goals in his streak and 18 this season.
A day after the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks played in 60-degree weather at Dodger Stadium, the NHL returned to conditions more fitting for hockey.
“Within 16 hours, two of the most-revered venues in sports welcomed more than 100,000 fans to sit under the sky and enjoy two of the fiercest rivalries in the National Hockey League,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “The games were spectacular, the images were unforgettable, and the sheer energy our sport creates was unmistakable.”
Lundqvist settled down and made 19 saves. He hadn’t allowed more than two goals in his previous seven outings.
The Devils took care of that in the first.
Patrik Elias scored twice, Travis Zajac once and Jaromir Jagr had two assists in the first to excite the large number of New Jersey fans who made the trek to the Bronx for what was a Devils home game.
“They changed their game in the second period,” Jagr said of the Rangers. “They were flying into our zone, and we didn’t react to it.”
Jagr moved past former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Mario Lemieux for 10th place on the NHL career assist list.
The teams played through the second period as the snow started and increased in intensity, not long after they were forced to wait around an extra hour to drop the puck because of bright sunshine that created a dangerous glare on the ice.
The temperature was 24.9 degrees when the game started at 1:41 p.m. in front of a sellout crowd of 50,105.
Jagr said he and his teammates took in the scene, but perhaps a bit too much.
“I think we all did that in the second period,” Jagr said.
Yankee Stadium’s second hockey game will take place on Wednesday night when the Rangers will again be the road team in a matchup with the New York Islanders.
Zuccarello tied it, 3-3, at 2:48 of the second when he redirected in a pass from John Moore, and put New York in front at the end of a three-on-one rush with 7:16 left. Benoit Pouliot chipped the puck ahead at center ice to Derick Brassard, who sent a pass from the right side to Zuccarello for his 15th goal.
Hagelin made it 5-3 just 1:09 later when he flipped a shot from the right circle that appeared to hit Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky before getting through Brad Richards’ screen and by Brodeur.
The Devils netminder was again victimized by an odd-man attack that Nash finished with 28.5 seconds left in the middle frame. Brodeur was serenaded with derisive chants of “Mar-ty .. . Mar-ty” as Rangers fans in the stands made their voices heard.
He watched the rest of the game from the bench. Schneider, who made only four saves, gave up Derek Stepan’s penalty-shot goal with 9:54 remaining. The seven goals matched the Rangers’ season high.
Schneider is 5-1-2 with a 0.96 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in his last eight starts, dating to Dec. 28.