The Rangers had lost the game, had been beaten for the first time in four games this season by the Devils, but when it ended 3-2 at the Garden, Vinny Prospal could not suppress a smile. And no one could blame him.

For it wasn't so much that Prospal scored in his first game after missing the first 53 of the season following right knee surgery the first week of October, it was that the 35-year-old winger made his way back after months of grueling rehab.

"It felt great," said Prospal, whose attempted cross-ice feed for Marian Gaborik from the low right wing was deflected in off the stick of New Jersey defenseman Henrik Tallinder at 2:21 of the third.

"It's been a long time," he said. "I just feel very fortunate to be able to come back and play again."