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Rangers 3, Devils 2

May 7, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ For the second game in a row, the New Jersey Devils thought they had come back to tie the New York Rangers. For the second game in a row, they were tripped up by their own feet.

An apparent goal by Doug Gilmour late in the game was disallowed when a video review showed teammate Bill Guerin had a skate in the Rangers’ crease.

It would have tied the game 3-3 with 7:42 remaining. Instead, New York’s defense clamped down for a 3-2 victory Tuesday night, putting the Rangers ahead two games to one in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal series.

New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire, who has defended the unpopular foot-in-the-crease rule since its arrival this season, was philosophical.

``I don’t think it’s a silly play,″ he said. ``(Guerin is) driving, he’s working hard, he’s going to the net for the loose puck. I don’t blame the player. I don’t blame the rule, either. The rule is fine.″

Gilmour’s goal, on one of three Devils power plays in the third, was disallowed when the video showed Guerin had skated from behind the net into the opposite side of the crease behind Rangers goalie Mike Richter.

``I don’t think it’s a great rule, but it’s easy to criticize. It worked for us tonight,″ Richter said. ``Guerin was just doing his job. If the guy had waited a second to shoot, Guerin would have been through.″

In Game 2, Steve Thomas’ goal was taken away when he strayed into the crease. The Devils ultimately lost 2-0.

Wayne Gretzky and Esa Tikkanen scored in the first 5 1/2 minutes for New York, and Tikkanen added the game-winner on a power play in the second period. New Jersey’s goals were scored by Randy McKay and Thomas.

New York won despite being outshot 35-26, including 15-3 in the third period as New Jersey’s defense, disorganized to the point of bickering in the earlier periods, closed down.

``We stopped hitting and they got vicious and mean and hard,″ Rangers coach Colin Campbell said. ``After that, they took the game over. Sometimes that happens when you start protecting a lead midway through the game.″

Gretzky opened the scoring on a pretty passing play with Luc Robitaille, who retrieved Gretzky’s drop pass just inside the blue line for a slap shot into traffic at the top of the crease. Gretzky, alone on the net’s open right side, grabbed the rebound and tucked it in at 3:57 of the first.

``I got kind of a break on that goal,″ Gretzky said. ``I snapped it pretty good and Brodeur still got a piece of it. I was mad he got a piece of it.″

Tikkanen scored his first goal from the same spot just under 1 1/2 minutes later on Brian Leetch’s rebound out of another goalmouth scramble.

New Jersey cut the lead to 2-1 only 40 seconds later when Brian Rolston was abandoned by the Rangers defense in the high slot long enough to slap the puck on net, where McKay tapped it in.

The Devils made it easier for New York through the second period with plenty of defensive lapses that, after one particularly close call, left goalie Martin Brodeur and defenseman Ken Daneyko apparently scolding each other in the crease.

Tikkanen’s second goal came on one of the Rangers’ five power plays, when he took Gretzky’s pass low in the right circle and fired the puck through Brodeur’s pads to make it 3-1 at 6:41 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, New Jersey narrowed it to 3-2 when Thomas batted down an airborne puck that was slapped in from the point by Dave Ellett and lofted over the shoulder of an out-of-position Richter.

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