The first game between the Devils and Rangers this season began the same way the last one between the Hudson River rivals ended last spring – with a goal from Adam Henrique.

From there, Martin Brodeur, David Clarkson and Patrik Elias did the rest as the Devils bested the Rangers, 3-1, Tuesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 17,625 at Prudential Center.

Clarkson continued his hot start by scoring two more goals and assisting on Henrique’s goal. Elias matched his career high with three assists. And Brodeur was sharp throughout, making several highlight saves among his 24 stops.

“That was a huge game for us,” Clarkson said. “We knew we had to come out hard and I thought we did a lot of good things as a team tonight. Marty played unbelievable.”

While the Devils improved to 5-1-3 to remain one point behind Pittsburgh for first place in the Atlantic Division, the Rangers (4-5-0) fell below .500 again and have yet to climb above the break-even point this season.

“To be a top team, or even be a top five or six team in the league, it’s not about being that much better. It’s just being consistent,” Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “That’s what it’s all about. Everybody beats everybody, but if you want to get a lot of points, you just have to continue to do it every night and that’s what we’re looking for.”

The Devils were expecting a Rangers team determined to make a statement after falling to the Devils in six games in last season’s Eastern Conference finals. Devils coach Pete DeBoer talked to his players about that beforehand and tried to stress the importance of playing a strong first period.

“We talked about how motivated the other side would be today,” DeBoer said. “It’s a tough summer when you go home and you don’t win, just like we did with L.A. [in the Stanley Cup Finals]. And if you get an opportunity to play the team that beats you out, there’s obviously extra motivation.”