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Rangers cruise as Yankee Stadium hosts first NHL contest

AP

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 warmups 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 15-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.”

Panthers 5, Red Wings 4 (SO)

In Detroit, Nick Bjugstad scored in a shootout and Tim Thomas denied the Red Wings three times.

Jets 3, Blackhawks 1

In Chicago, Al Montoya made 34 saves, Andrew Ladd scored his 150th goal and the Jets rallied to beat the slumping Blackhawks.

Canucks 5, Coyotes 4 (OT)

In Vancouver, Kevin Bieksa scored his second goal of the game at 2:15 of overtime, lifting the Canucks to a victory over the Coyotes.

Oilers 5, Predators 1

In Edmonton, Ryan Smyth had a goal and an assist, and the Oilers snapped a season-high six-game losing streak.