There’s something about playing the Rangers that seems to bring out the best in Ryan Carter.

During the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, the Devils left wing scored three goals against the Rangers, including the game-winner in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. Tonight at the Garden, he scored two more goals – the third two-goal game of his career and his first as a Devil – in a 3-2 victory over the Blueshirts.

“Rivalry games are always the most fun to get up for,” Carter said. “In college, they were fun. In high school, they were fun. But I don’t know that anything changes other than – this is where I’ll use the term luck. It’s just one of those things where you go out and you play hard and sometimes they find their way in.

“I had a chance in the third with the one-timer off (Michael) Ryder’s bank pass off the wall. That was probably a better opportunity to score than the second goal that I scored, but the second one goes in and the better opportunity doesn’t.”

Carter had big slap shot in the third period that struck Henrik Lundqvist in the left shoulder that clearly stung the Rangers goaltender.

“I think that’s as hard as I’m going to shoot the puck, no question,” Carter said. “It was a one-timer, stepping in and skating up ice. It laid out there for me flat. That’s a dream opportunity right there and he made a good save. I’m glad it stung him, but he made a good save.”

The Devils have gotten production out of their fourth line recently with Cam Janssen scoring a pair of goals in the last four games and Carter has two goals and two assists over the last four games.

“I think it’s just hard work and sticking with it,” Carter said. “You say you get the bounces, but I think you get the bounces when you work hard and you’re in good position and it’s going off skates because you’re driving to nets and things like that. You can call it luck, but I think it comes with the hard work.”

It was Janssen driving to the front of the net when Carter’s first goal went in off the Rangers’ J.T. Miller.

“He’s injected some positivity into the locker room and it’s been great for our team,” Carter said of Janssen. “He’s working hard out there and seeing him score really energizes the team too. Guys love that. He doesn’t get an opportunity to do that often and when he does it energizes the group and it’s fun to be a part of that.”

Devils coach Pete DeBoer ended up shortening his bench with Janssen playing only 3:45 for the night (not at all in the third) and Mattias Tedenby just 5:59 (one shift in the third), but Carter played a season-high 14:47.

“He had good legs and he always plays well here against the Rangers,” DeBoer said. “He’s one of those guys that has the ability to raise his game in big games and important, gritty games.”

DeBoer also had Carter on the ice in the final seconds when Lundqvist was on the bench for a sixth attacker. Carter said he wasn’t thinking about trying to get his first career hat trick by shooting for the empty net.

“I was thinking just get it past the blue line and the game’s over and I put it in the bench,” Carter said of his play with 6.7 seconds remaining. “I wasn’t thinking a hat trick. I think the coaches put you out there to give you an opportunity to get it, but my focus there was not to get it. It was to win the game. If the opportunity came, I would have gone for it, but it didn’t come.”

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The Devils had to play the final 46:21 with only five defensemen after Anton Volchenkov pulled a leg muscle skating back to play the puck in the first period and then had to dive to play the puck.

It’s unclear how long Volchenkov will be out. The Devils are already missing defensemen Bryce Salvador (foot stress fracture) and Jon Merrill (facial lacerations.

“We’ll see how in the next couple days how it’s going to feel and get some treatments,” Volchenkov said.

Without Volchenkov, Andy Greene (27:40) and Peter Harrold (27:46) played heavy minutes. Marek Zidlicky played 21:02, Eric Gelinas played 20:57 and Adam Larsson played 17:48.

“I thought we did a good job of battling through there,” Greene said. “You never want to see a fellow D man go down, but it happens and everyone just picked up a little bit more and stepped up their game and it was good.”

“I thought all our D were outstanding. Particularly Greene, Harrold and Zidlicky were fantastic,” DeBoer said. “They were just rocks back there for us.”