Ultimately it means nothing, yet it means so much more. Both the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers are long eliminated from playoff contention (the first time since the Devils came to New Jersey that both teams will miss the playoffs in the same season, if you can believe that) but it was still Devils-Rangers. The Devils came away with the 4-2 victory on home ice to finally grab a win from their cross-river rivals in their final home game of the 2018-19 season.
It was a physical game with a few fights. It also had some nice goals and some great saves.
In some roster-related news, Jesper Bratt has officially been shut down for the season. Kurtis Gabriel (upper body) missed his third straight game, Sami Vatanen (illness) remains out and Kyle Palmieri (lower body) was also missing tonight. Egor Yakovlev was a healthy scratch. The Devils were getting Nathan Bastian back off of injured reserve tonight. He would go on to have a solid game.
The goalie matchup saw Mackenzie Blackwood for the Devils (he stopped 30 of 32 shots for a .938 save percentage) get his first win over the Rangers while the old workhorse Henrik Lundqvist went for New York. He stopped 37 of 40 shots against for a .925 save percentage on the night.
Special teams played a rather large role tonight. The Devils were 1-for-4 on the power play with five shots and two shorthanded shots. The Rangers were 1-for-2 with two shots. They also had two shorthanded shots. The second period saw three fights as first, Tony DeAngelo fought Bastian to a draw in the young Devils’ second career NHL scrap. In the second one, Brendan Lemieux took on Miles Wood in a fight where Wood lost his balance early and could not get set, so give that one to Claude’s kid. In the third bout of the period, Blake Coleman took on Lias Andersson in one that also went to a draw. There was definitely some fire shown out there by the youngsters, no doubt about that.
The Devils got the goal scoring started when Miles Wood (who was an assist short of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick) snapped a shot over Lundqvist’s right shoulder. He got assists from Connor Carrick and Mirco Mueller. Wood had just inadvertently blocked an Andy Greene shot on the shift just prior, which shook him up. But he recovered to give the Devils the early 1-0 lead at 3:54 into the first period.
The Devils doubled up their lead on the power play at 14:34. DeAngelo had gone off for tripping at 13:56, setting up a Devils man advantage and the Devils capitalized. Damon Severson wristed a shot from the point that was tipped in front by Travis Zajac to make it 2-0 Devils. Nico Hischier had the secondary assist.
From there, the game started to get away from the Devils a little. First, Brett Howden scored on a 3-on-1 for the Rangers, beating Blackwood with a shot to the short side. Connor Brickley and Neal Pionk had the assists on that goal that cut the Devils lead in half at 2-1. The goal was scored at 18:40.
A few seconds after that goal, the Rangers seemed to have tied it up when Chris Kreider scored. However, the Devils challenged the call on the ice, which was a good goal and the replay showed that the puck hit the post and was cleared out by Severson (who batted the puck out of midair) and never actually fully crossed the goal line. The call on the ice was reversed to no goal and the Devils retained the 2-1 lead.
The total shots in the wild first period – with both teams getting 17 for a total of 34 – is the highest combined total of shots in one period for the Devils and their opponents this season.
In the second period, in between the fights, Filip Chytil found time to tie the game up at two when he scored for the Rangers on the power play. Greene was serving a holding penalty and Chytil scored off of the rush, putting in a rebound after Blackwood made the initial save. The goal came at 16:36 and Vinni Lettieri and DeAngelo had the assists.
And so, we headed into the final Devils home period of the season tied at two with their archrivals. It was close. Hischier hit the post on the power play midway through the frame. But it was Carrick who was the hero. At the 15:50 mark of the third, Michael McLeod dropped the puck along the left wing boards to Drew Stafford, who found Carrick cutting in behind the play. Stafford sold a shot and passed to Carrick, who snapped the puck by Lundqvist to give the Devils a 3-2 lead.
The Rangers then pulled Lundqvist with about 1:33 left in the game. Kenny Agostino tried to pot one into the empty net from center ice but hit the post. Joey Anderson then skated in, gathered the rebound and put it home on the backhand to ice the game at 4-2. Agostino and Zajac were credited with the assists on the empty netter.
The Devils had finally beaten the Rangers this season, keeping them from being swept for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
Chytil was the game’s third star, Zajac the second with a goal and an assist and Carrick the first with an assist and the game winning goal.
The Devils out shot New York 41-32 and won a whopping 67-percent of the game’s faceoffs. There was a combined 46 penalty minutes in the game with the Rangers taking 25 of them. The Devils out hit the Rangers 23-20 and had more giveaways at 10 to the Rangers’ five. The Rangers had more blocked shots (11-5) than the Devils.
Individually, Severson led all skaters in time on ice with 25:21 (including 4:32 on the power play and 2:40 on the PK) while Pavel Zacha led the forwards with 20:07 total ice time (4:32 on the PP/53 seconds on the PK). Stefan Noesen led the Devils in shots on goal with seven, Coleman led in hits with four, Severson led in blocks with two and Greene led in takeaways with two.
Next up, the Devils head down to Carolina on Thursday to take on the Hurricanes in the penultimate game of the season. The Canes are still fighting for their playoff lives so this game could be interesting as the Devils could play spoiler a bit. We will find out as we will have coverage for you right here on Thursday.