Zibanejad Notches Hat Trick as Devils Fall to Rangers

With the bitter cold hockey weather hitting the Northeast this week, it was fitting that two bitter rivals finally began their 2018-19 season series. It took almost five months, but Devils-Rangers was finally here. This was the latest point in a season, according to Steve Cagialosi, that the Hudson River Rivals have met not including a lockout year. But unfortunately for the Devils faithful, a win was not in the cards. The Rangers defeated the Devils 4-3 thanks to a Mika Zibanejad hat trick.

In roster and injury news, goaltender Cam Johnson was sent back to AHL Binghamton and Mackenzie Blackwood was called back up to the big club. He would not get the start as Keith Kinkaid got the nod instead. In addition, Sami Vatanen was placed on Injured Reserve due to a concussion following the hit from Derrick Brassard in the Pittsburgh game. Eric Gryba was called up from Binghamton to take his place on the roster but was a healthy scratch. Kurtis Gabriel was also a scratch. In Vatanen’s place, Egor Yakovlev got the nod to slot in on the blue line for the first time since December 10. In addition to that, Taylor Hall was still not in the lineup. He has now not played in 39 days (since December 23) and it does not seem like he will be ready for Saturday’s game at Montreal as per reports by the MSG+ crew.

Getting back to the Brassard hit on Vatanen, there was no supplemental discipline handed out by the NHL and most agreed that the game misconduct given by the referee on the ice was enough. The hit was just not dirty enough to warrant an extra suspension or anything like that.

In goal, Kinkaid was back for the Devils, stopping 21 of the 25 shots he saw for an .840 save percentage on the night. The Rangers threw out their venerable backstop Henrik Lundqvist who turned aside 19 of 22 Devils shots for an .864 save percentage.

Both teams were 2-for-4 on the power play for the night. The Devils had nine shots while New York had four on the power play. The Rangers also had two shorthanded shots as well. Special teams would, obviously, play a huge role in this game and both teams looked pretty good on the man advantage.

The Devils were in their heritage green, white and red uniforms and looking for their first win in those jerseys this year. Things looked promising early on too. Nico Hischier buried a loose puck in front of Lundqvist that gave the Devils the 1-0 lead just 5:10 into the game. That goal came on the power play while Marc Staal was off for holding.

The Devils doubled their lead a little more than ten minutes later. At 14:58, New York’s Jesper Fast was called for tripping Damon Severson. At 16:18, Marcus Johansson made it 2-0 Devils when he made a beautiful play, diving for a puck that hit the post behind Lundqvist and pool cueing it into the net. The Devils had the 2-0 lead early on and seemed to be cruising.

But then the Mika Zibanejad show began. At 19:53, Johansson took an interference penalty and the Rangers were on the power play. With just two seconds to the first intermission, Kevin Hayes won the offensive zone faceoff back to Zibanejad and he unleashed a bomb on Kinkaid that beat him clean to cut the Devil lead in half at 2-1. Zibanejad would be named the game’s first star while Mats Zuccarello of the Rangers was the second star and Nico Hischier was the third.

In the second period, at 16:36, Zibanejad struck again on the power play. Blake Coleman – one of the Devils best penalty killers – was off for hooking and New York was on the man advantage. Zuccarello made a nice tape-to-tape pass to him at the bottom of the far faceoff circle. He snapped a shot off and the game was tied up at two apiece. Hayes had the secondary assist on this one. This came minutes after Kinkaid made a nice save on Hayes, who had deked two Devils skaters out of their skates and endured Neal Pionk hitting the post behind him.

The game would go back-and-forth in the early stages of the third period. Chris Kreider scored at 4:43 when his shot beat Kinkaid between his left arm and the post. Zuccarello and Zibanejad had the assists on this goal. Zibanejad had factored into every Ranger goal so far on the night.

New York had taken the lead for the first time, but it did not last long. Fifty-three seconds later, Yakovlev was able to find the back of the net when Johansson flushed out the puck on the forecheck and Yakovlev jumped up into the play, firing the puck by Lundqvist to tie it at three.

The game was now in the balance and the Rangers went back to MIka Zibanejad to finish off the Devils. New Jersey could not clear the defensive zone and Zuccarello was able to backhand a pass to Zibanejad in the slot. He skated right in and beat Kinkaid for the game winner and the hat trick. Pavel Buchnevich had the other assist on the goal.

Kinkaid was pulled with 1:22 remaining and the Devils had two offensive zone faceoffs but were unable to finish and time simply ran out on the Devils. New York won 4-3.

It was a good game played by both teams, although the Rangers tended to dominate the zone time for most of the game, it seemed. Overall, the backbreaker was probably the late goal scored in the first period as that seemed to be a turning point.

The Rangers out shot the Devils 25-22 while the Devils won 52-percent of the faceoffs and the Devils out hit the Rangers, 11-9.The Devils blocked more shots than the Rangers at 11-9 and had more giveaways at 8-1.

There were some key called penalties, including a Miles Wood goaltender interference call at 13:11 of the second period where Wood was seemingly pushed into Lundqvist that probably should not have been called and a dangerous Pavel Zacha cross-checking/boarding call on a Ranger that probably should have been called late in the game. But the officiating was, overall, good.

Individually, Damon Severson led all Devils skaters with 25:55 of ice time (4:17 on the power play and 2:31 shorthanded). Travis Zajac led the forwards with 21:04 of TOI (2:45 of PP time and 1:47 of PK time). Severson also led the Devils in shots on goal with four. Hits were led by Blake Coleman with four, blocks by Hischier with two and takeaways by Zajac, Zacha and Mirco Mueller with two each.

Next up for the Devils, it is a Saturday afternoon showdown up in Montreal with the Canadiens. That game is at 2 PM at Bell Centre and we will have coverage for you right here. In the meantime, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Preseason: Devils Fall to Rangers in OT Again

Be it in the playoffs, the regular season or even the preseason, the objective remains the same for New Jersey: beat the New York Rangers. And although they did not accomplish that tonight, they did play a solid game, only falling in overtime by a score of 4-3.

Some news to open things as Cory Schneider is on track to be able to play a week or two into the regular season. He will be making the trip to Europe with the team, but will not play in either the preseason game against SC Bern in Switzerland or the regular season opener in Sweden against the Edmonton Oilers.

The starting goaltending matchup tonight was an all-Swedish affair with Eddie Lack going for the Devils and Henrik Lundqvist starting for the Rangers. Lack would play the whole game for New Jersey, being backed up by Mackenzie Blackwood. He made 35 saves on 39 New York shots. Lundqvist played the first two periods of the game, making 14 stops on 15 shots against. Marek Mazanec relieved him in the third and made nine saves on 11 shots. The Devils had 26 total shots in the game.

The game saw two fights, both involving Eric Gryba of the Devils. In the first period, he fought Matt Beleskey at the 15:44 mark. Beleskey injured his shoulder in the scrap and would not return to the game. In the third period, Gryba came to the aid of Brett Seney, who he felt had taken a dirty hit from a Ranger. Gryba ended up dropping the gloves with Cody McLeod of the Rangers. That fight occurred at the 7:33 mark of the period.

After a somewhat sloppy and sluggish first period, things began to pick up in the second. The Rangers broke the scoreless tie when Steven Fogarty scored from McLeod and Neal Pionk at 3:11 of the second frame.

But it only took the Devils 1:06 to get that one back. Taylor Hall forced a turnover deep in the New York zone and passed to Kyle Palmieri at the far faceoff dot. Palmieri fired a one-timer by Lundqvist to even the score at one. It was a great snipe by Palmieri and nice work on the forecheck by Hall leading to a game-tying goal.

However, before the period was through, the Rangers would retake the lead when Timothy Gettinger scored at the 9:09 mark to make it 2-1 going into the final frame. Gettinger had scored on his own rebound that handcuffed Lack. He got an assist from Pionk. Pionk would finish the night with two assists for New York.

The third period saw the Rangers extend their lead further just 31 second in. It came on the power play when Chris Kreider finished a 2-on-1 with Mika Zibanejad. Tony DeAngelo had the secondary assist. That goal came while John Quenneville was in the box for tripping, an infraction that occurred 19:13 into the second period.

The Devils ended the night 0-for-3 on the power play while the Rangers were 1-for-2.

The Devils were down 3-1, but not out. From here, it really became the Palmieri-Hischier-Hall show. This began at the 6:11 mark of the third when Sami Vatanen found Palmieri with a stretch pass at the Rangers’ blue line. Palmieri spun around and dropped a nice feed to Nico Hischier at the top of the far faceoff circle. He fired one by Mazanec’s stick side to make it 3-2.

The Devils would complete the comeback at the 9:08 mark when Hall found twine to tie it at three. It began when Hischier gave to Palmieri to break out of the Devils zone from just inside their blue line. At this point, Hall was just coming off the bench and used his speed to catch up to the play just inside the Rangers’ blue line. He took a pass from Palmieri and scored from almost the exact same spot Hischier did. That would tie up the game and Hall finished the night with two points (a goal and an assist), Hischier with two (a goal and an assist) and Palmieri with three (a goal and two assists). Hall would be named the game’s third star while Palmieri was the second.

When time ran out on regulation, that led us to another Devils-Rangers preseason OT game. And it was full of excitement. Hall broke in a few times using his speed to go in alone against Mazanec, only for the Rangers’ goalie to stop him. Hischier hit the post on a chance late in overtime.

But, in the end, it was a nice offensive play by the Rangers’ netminder that ended it. Mazanec caught the Devils in a change and passed the puck up to Kevin Hayes, who waited patiently in front of the Devils’ net until he found Vinni Lettieri. Lettieri went upstairs to seemingly beat Lack but the goal was initially waved off on the ice. The officials conferred and replays showed that it did go just under the crossbar, beating Lack cleanly. The call on the ice was overturned, it was a good goal and the Rangers had the 4-3 win. That one came at the 3:53 mark of the overtime period.

Overall, the Devils played a good game, really pressuring the Rangers late in the game and getting some good chances out of it. Vatanen led all skaters in ice time with 25:38 – including 2:31 of power play time and 1:01 of penalty killing. Hischier led the forwards with 19:35 – with 3:23 of power play and 1:06 penalty kill. Shots on goal were led by Hall, Brian Boyle, Jesper Bratt, Vatanen and Ty Smith who each had three apiece. Quenneville led in hits with four while Gryba and Vatanen each registered two blocks.

Next up, New Jersey travels to Winnipeg on Thursday to take on the Jets. Although this game will not be televised in the New York City market, I will try to get a post up with details about the game as best I can.

Preseason: Devils Drop Both Games of a Split Squad Outing

The Devils opened their 2018-19 preseason with a pair of split-squad games tonight with half the team home against the Rangers and half up in Montreal taking on the Canadiens. There was a difference of a half hour between the games, as the Rangers puck drop was 7 PM while the Habs game started at 7:30 PM.

Rick Kowalsky was coaching the Devils in New Jersey with John Hynes staying at Prudential Center to observe both games from a management suite. Alain Nasredine coached the team up in Montreal, I am going to assume.

First the Rangers game. The Devils dropped the game to their arch rivals in overtime 4-3 despite holding three leads on the night. Nick Lappin scored two goals while John Quenneville completed two-thirds of a Gordie Howe hatrick with a goal and a fight.

Lappin lifted the seal on the new season when he scored just 5:14 into the game from Blake PIetila and Eric Gryba. The goal came when Pietila rushed up the left wing boards, beating a Rangers player to a loose puck. He fed a wide open Lappin in the slot, who did not miss, beating Rangers goaltender Alexander Georgiev to make it 1-0 Devils.

But in what would become a pattern throughout the night, New York tied things up at the 14:00 mark of the first when Lias Andersson scored his first of two, shorthanded on a breakaway, to tie things at one. The goal was unassisted.

Before the first period was out, however, the Devils would retake the lead. On the same Devils power play that Andersson scored shorthaned – a Steven Fogarty holding penalty – Quenneville scored a power play goal. It came with assists to Ty Smith and Brian Boyle at 14:52. It came when Quenneville curled around at the far half wall and gave to Smith at the point. They played catch before Smith gave the puck back to Quenneville who fired one from the top of the far faceoff circle to give the Devils back the lead, 2-1.

Prior to his goal, at the 5:34 mark of the first, Quenneville had come to the aid of a teammate who was rocked on a thunderous (but clean) hit by the Rangers’ Rob O’Gara. They dropped the mitts and Quenneville would get the extra penalty, a cross checking penalty, to put the Rangers on the power play. The two teams would seemingly beat a path to the penalty box all night, as the Rangers racked up 19 penalty minutes on the night while the Devils got 17 PIMs as a team.

The Devils entered the second period with a 2-1 lead, but the Rangers were on the power play. Egor Iavkolev had been called for slashing at 19:00 and just 17 seconds in to the new frame, Kevin Rooney went off for hooking. That gave the Rangers a 5-on-3 power play that the Devils would kill off.

But New York would tie the game up on the power play anyway at 9:12. Rooney was serving another hooking penalty when Pavel Buchnevich scored to tie the game at two apiece. He got an assist from Kevin Hayes. That was the only scoring of the second period, but the Rangers would switch their goalies out in the middle session. They took out Georgiev, who made 16 saves on 18 shots against and put in Marek Mazanec. He would go on to stop 8 of 9 Devils shots.

The Devils would make a goaltending change of their own at the beginning of the third period when they took out Keith Kinkaid who made 14 saves on 16 shots on goal through 40 minutes and swapped him for Cam Johnson. He ended up stopping 10 of 12. The Rangers finished the game with 28 shots on goal while the Devils were right there with them with 27.

The third period was a period of the power play units. First, Lappin scored his second of the game on a power play at the 5:24 mark from Michael McLeod and Smith (who also finished the night with two points – the two assists). It came when New York’s Tony DeAngelo was called for interference at 4:20 of the third and, with the extra man, Smith gave the puck to McLeod at the near half wall. He found a seam and made a nice pass to Lappin in the slot, who fired a snap shot by Mazanec to make it 3-2 Devils.

But less than a minute later, at 5:42, Gryba took a hooking call and the Rangers were back on the power play. Here, Andersson scored his second of the game from Chris Kreider and Hayes to tied things up at three. The Devils just could not shake the Rangers all night.

Midway through the third, Gryba would rock Boo Nieves with a big hit where their heads unintentionally collided. Nieves would leave the game for the Rangers’ locker room and would not return.

Taylor Hall had a chance to give the Devils the lead late when he fired a shot on a partial breakaway that beat Mazanek and trickled by him, but was swept away by a Ranger before it could cross the goal line.

Cam Johnson looked good late in the game with a few good saves, including a some early in the overtime period. Neal Pionk would win it for the Rangers in the OT off a nice feed from Buchnevich. Jesper Fast had the secondary assist. The Devils had fallen in this game 4-3.

In a game filled with penalties, New York ended the night 2-for-6 on the power play while the Devils were 2-for-7 with the extra attacker. The Devils played the more physical game, out-hitting the Rangers 25 to 15. Sami Vatanen led the Devils in ice time in this game with 22:17 while Jesper Bratt led the forwards with 21:31. Vatanen also led in shots with four.

Now up to Montreal, where the Devils fell 3-1 to the Habs. This one saw the Devils grab the early 1-0 lead and then squander it by giving up three in the third period.

Blake Speers opened the scoring for the Devils in this one, scoring unassisted at 6:42 of the first shorthanded. Marcus Johansson was called for holding at 5:58 and, on the ensuing penalty kill, Speers picked off a point-to-point pass in the Devils end and raced up ice, beating Montreal goalie Anti Niemi to make it 1-0. Niemi would make eight saves on nine Devils shots in 30:56 of work while Charlie Lindgren played the rest of the game for the Canadiens and stopped all eight shots he faced.

For the Devils in net, Eddie Lack started and stopped all 13 shots he saw while Mackenzie Blackwood came in in the third period and made nine saves on twelve shots against. In total, the Devils had 17 shots on net while the Canadiens had 25.

The score remained the same through to the third when the wheels fell off for the Devils, all in a span of about two minutes. At 3:08, Victor Mete scored to tie it up from Michael Chaput and Jacob de la Rose. At 4:11, Charles Hudon scored to give the Habs the 2-1 lead and Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored an insurance goal at 4:40 from Rinat Valiev and Simon Despres to give us our final of 3-1.

Neither team scored on the man advantage, the Devils going 0-for-4 and Montreal going 0-for-3. Damon Severson led all Devils skaters in time on ice with 24:01 while Pavel Zacha led the forwards with 20:40. No player had more than two shots on goal for the Devils. Proof that the Devils want to see more from these two players by giving them more responsibilities.

A disappointing night (in terms of final score) for Devils fans, but the Rangers game in particular showed some signs that the younger kids might just have what it takes to compete and gave some hope. Next up, the Devils travel to Brooklyn for a preseason tilt against the Islanders on Thursday. The Rangers game was the lone home preseason game the Devils will play this year.

Who Is Going Where For Tomorrow’s Split Squad Games

As many of you are aware, hockey season kicks off tomorrow for the Devils. New Jersey will be playing a pair of split squad games, one at home against the New York Rangers that begins at 7 PM and one up in Montreal against the Canadiens that starts at 7:30 PM. The Rangers game is being televised on NHL Network outside of the New York metropolitan area and locally on MSG+.

For the game at Prudential Center versus New York, the forwards will consist of Brian Boyle, Jesper Bratt, Kurtis Gabriel, Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, Stefan Noesen, Blake Pietila, John Quenneville, Kevin Rooney and Eric Tangradi with Yegor Sharangovich as a healthy scratch.

The defense corps for the Ranger game will be: captain Andy Greene, free agent pick-up Eric Gryba, Steve Santini, 2018 first round pick Ty Smith, Sami Vatanen and Egor Yakovlev. Colby Sissons will be available but will not likely dress.

The goalies will be Keith Kinkaid and Cam Johnson.

For the game in Quebec, Joey Anderson, Brandon Baddock, Blake Coleman, Brandon Gignac, Marcus Johansson, Kyle Palmieri, Brett Seney, Blake Speers, Drew Stafford, Marian Studenic, Pavel Zacha and Travis Zajac will play up front with Nate Bastian as an extra.

The defense in Montreal will be Will Butcher, Josh Jacobs, Ben Lovejoy, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson and Brian Strait. Xavier Bernard will be on the trip but likely will not dress.

The goalies for the Habs game will be Eddie Lack and Mackenzie Blackwood.

This information comes from the Devils’ official website. We will, of course, have coverage of the Devils-Rangers game here and will try to do something with the information we can get on the Devils-Canadiens game, too.

Devils Reveal 2018-19 Preseason Schedule

With the NHL’s regular season schedule being revealed this Thursday, the Devils decided to whet our appetite by revealing their 2018-19 preseason schedule today.

There will only be one home preseason game, the preseason opener against the Rangers on September 17. That will be a split squad game, as part of the team will also be up in Montreal at the Bell Centre playing the Canadiens a half hour later. (The Rangers game at Prudential Center begins at 7 PM while the Montreal game is at 7:30.)

Three days later, on September 20, the Devils will take on the Islanders in Brooklyn. On the 24, they will finish up the local part of their preseason schedule at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. Both New York games are at 7 PM.

On the 27th, they then travel to Western Canada to take on the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg. That game begins at 8 PM ET.

From there, the Devils have quite a bit of traveling to do. They will go from Winnipeg to Bern, Switzerland to take on SC Bern on October 1 (a Monday according to the Devils’ press release). This is part of the NHL Global Series Challenge and is still an exhibition game. The game will take place at PostFinance Arena at 1:30 PM ET here in the United States and 7:30 PM CET in Switzerland.

The press release mentions Nico Hischier (a native of Brig, Switzerland) and Mirco Mueller (Winterhur, Switzerland) getting to play in front of their countrymen for the first time as NHLers.

The Devils will then kick off their regular season in Gothenburg, Sweden on Saturday, October 6 at the Scandinavium against the Edmonton Oilers. Puck drop for that game is 1 PM ET. That game will be a part of the NHL Global Series.

Hall, Butcher With Big NIghts as Devils Down Rangers

Will Butcher had two goals versus the Rangers tonight. His first NHL multi goal game. He was named the game’s second star of the night. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The push to the playoffs is coming down to the wire and the Devils are looking better and better with each passing game. Tonight they defeated their cross-river rivals 5-2 to move their magic number to clinch to just two. They would not clinch tonight, as Florida beat Nashville 2-1 in regulation to keep their hopes alive, but they did leapfrog the Flyers as Philly lost to the Islanders 5-4 in Brooklyn. They did not leap over the Blue Jackets either, as they beat the Red Wings in OT 5-4 in Ohio.

This was the second to last home game of the year for the Devils, they do have Toronto at home on Thursday, but this one was a big one against a rival with so much at stake for New Jersey.

Some roster moves first. The Devils scratched Jesper Bratt tonight with Brian Gibbons slotting back in at forward. Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford were also out with Damon Severson scratched on defense.

The D would remain the same with Severson out and Lovejoy in. The lines were shaken up a little bit with Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri were the top line combination and Pavel Zacha, Michael Grabner and Patrick Maroon rounding out the top six.

The goaltending matchup saw Keith Kinkaid, who tonight became the winningest goalie in the NHL since February 15 go against Rangers veteran Henrik Lundqvist. It was a relatively light night for Kinkaid, as he stopped 22 of 24 Ranger shots. Lundqvist, however, was under siege most of the night. He made 39 saves on 44 Devils shots.

This is uncharted territory for Lundqvist, who is playing meaningless hockey for the first time in his career. The Rangers are set to miss the playoffs for only the second time since 2005-06 and Lundqvist was on the team in 2010 that missed on the final game of the season – a shootout loss in Philly.

The Devils got the most from their power play tonight too. They went an amazing 3-for-4, scoring on four power play shots. The Rangers went 0-for-2 with a single shot with the man advantage.

The Devils had won three of four games against the Blueshirts this year and were gunning for the fourth of five. They would not waste time in getting there.

Just 25 seconds into the game, Travos Zajac scored from Blake Coleman to make it 1-0. The Devils broke into the New York zone on a 2-on-1. Zajac dropped to Coleman, who was trailing as the Ranger backchecker was getting back quickly. Coleman got a shot off as he was falling to the ice. Lundqvist made a good save to stop him, but Zajac was right there to tap in the rebound as Lundqvist had come way too far out of his crease.

The Devils had their foot on the gas and they would not let up. The Rangers were given a too many men on the ice bench minor at 3:14 of the first and the Devils were on their first power play of the night. Taylor Hall would take it from there. Will Butcher, at the point, passed to Kyle Palmieri down low. He one-touched to Maroon at the doorstep. Lunqvist made the save there, but the rebound jumped out to Hall stationed at the far faceoff dot. He shot and beat Lundqvist to make it 2-0. The goal came at 3:41 of the first and was scored unassisted, but I believe that at least Butcher was given an assist later, as I think he would end the night with a goal and two assists. Although Palmieri and Maroon would make more sense as the two assists.

The Devils would make it 3-0 at 10:40 of the first. That one came on the power play also as John Gilmour was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. Butcher scored from Palmieri and Hall to convert there. Hall weaved in the far corner to alieviate pressure before finding Palmieri at the far point. He faked a shot and went point-to-point with Butcher, who ripped a one-timer towards goal that beat Lundqvist for the Devils’ third goal of the young contest.

The Rangers would push play a little bit towards the end of the first, finally breaking through when Ryan Spooner scored from Jimmy Vesey and Filip Chytil at 17:47 to make it 3-1.

The second period would belong to New Jersey, however. Butcher scored again on the power play at 6:53 of the second from Hall and Zajac while New York’s Ryan Sproul was off for high sticking. Hall skated down the left wing and dropped for Butcher at the near point. He unleashed one, beating Lundqvist again to make it 4-1 Devils. This was Butcher’s first career NHL multi-point game and pushed him past Slava Fetisov for most points by a Devils’ defenseman in their rookie season with 44.

A scary moment while the Devils were killing off a penalty midway through the second period. A Pavel Buchnevich one-time shot hit Kinkaid square in the mask and knocked it off. He would get his backup mask and continue on.

At the 15:45 mark of the second, Taylor Hall was hauled down on a breakaway by Rangers d-man Brady Skjei. The referee’s arm went up and fans did not know if it was a tripping minor or a penalty shot. It was a penalty shot to be taken by Hall. He skated in and went high over Lundqvist’s glove, converting and making it 5-1 Devils. With that goal, Hall moved past Anze Kopitar of the Kings and into a top six spot in the NHL scoring race. He would hear chants of “M-V-P” from then until he came out for his TV interview after being named the game’s first star.

Midway through the third, Brian Boyle and Vesey would drop the gloves but would not fight. Linesman Tony Sericolo jumped in and the two were only assessed matching roughing minors instead.

New York would score one more at 14:26 of the third when Kevin Hayes took a giveaway in front of the Devils net and scored unassisted to make it 5-2. But the Devils had this one in hand with a 5-2 victory.

Statistically, John Moore led the Devils in ice time with 21:23 (including 1:17 on the power play and 52 seconds on the PK) just edging out Sami Vatanen, who had 21:06 of TOI. On a night when every Devil registered a shot on goal except for Andy Greene, Hall and Lovejoy tied for the lead with five each. Stefan Noesen and Moore both had two hits to lead in that category, Lovejoy had two blocked shots and Zajac had three takeaways to lead there.

Team-wise, the Devils won 58-percent of the game’s faceoffs, outshot New York an impressive 44-24. They were out hit 23-8 and the Rangers had more blocks, 12 to 9.

Next up, the Devils take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at home. Again, the magic number is two – either two points gained by the Devils or lost by the Panthers will get them in. Florida also plays on Thursday, at home agaisnt the Bruins. Hopefully everything will shake down in the Devils favor and we can begin to talk about potential first round matchups.

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Hell Freezes Over: Devils Acquire Grabner From Rangers

It took 35 years, but the New York Rangers finally made a deal with the Devils. The Devils tonight acquired forward Michael Grabner from New York in exchange for a second round pick in the 2018 Draft and the rights to Yegor Rykov, a defenseman (picked in the fifth round, 132nd overall, in the 2016 Draft) currently playing for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.

According to the Devils’ press release, GM Ray Shero made the announcement that the 30-year-old Grabner had been secured. He has 25 goals and 31 points in 59 games this season with his goal output leading the Rangers and his points ranking fourth. He is playing in his ninth NHL season (played with Vancouver, the Islanders, Toronto and the Rangers – he now makes the metropolitan area trifecta having played for the Isles, Rangers and Devils). The 6-foot, 1-inch, 190 pound native of Villach, Austria was Vancouver’s first pick (14th overall) in the 2006 Draft.

He has 156 goals and a total of 244 points in 532 NHL career games. He also has 92 penalty minutes and is in the final season of a two-year contract according to the press release. He will make $1.65 million this season.

He has represented Austria internationally, according to the press release, at the 2005 World Junior Championship, 2012 World Championship and the 2014 Olympics. Grabner played junior hockey with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League “and played in the 2006 CHL Top Prospects Game.”

Although he is likely a rental for the playoff push at this rate and Shero has said in the past that he would gladly make deals with the Rangers if it improved the team, this is still a little bit jarring. It is great to have a player like Grabner on board as he will add scoring on a team that has not been getting much of it consistently outside of Taylor Hall.

The big question is Rykov. He is a good prospect, but if he never comes over from Russia, the Devils will not have lost much. If he does, then….

Either way, the Devils have some help for the playoff push and history has certainly been made. I do not think that this will become a habit, but I do think that both teams will benefit from it – especially if the Devils make the postseason.

Devils Scratch and Claw to Victory Over Rangers

There was a playoff-like atmosphere at Prudential Center tonight. Sure the building is always amped up when the Devils and Rangers get it on, but it has been a long time since this much has been at stake in the Hudson River Rivalry.

With only two points separating the two teams in the Metropolitan Division standings, a lot was on the line and the fans – and players – knew it. In addition to the tight Metro Division standings, this was the first time in more than four years that both teams have been in a playoff position this late in the season and that just added to the tension in the building. But in the end, the Devils prevailed 4-3 in a shootout to defeat New York and come away with the full two points in a real hard fought victory.

In roster news, the Devils traded off one Swede for another in terms of injuries. They got Marcus Johansson back from injured reserve, and he would play tonight. However, Jesper Bratt would not. He was injured blocking a shot against the Ducks and will be day-to-day. Kyle Palmieri, who returned a few nights ago, would play on the top line with Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier. Jimmy Hayes, Ben Lovejoy and Dalton Prout were the Devils’ healthy scratches for the night.

In one other note, Brian Gibbons was playing in his 100th NHL game tonight.

The goaltending matchup was a marquee one and it did not disappoint. Henrik Lundqvist went for New York and made 45 saves on a whopping 48 Devils shots. He also made two saves in the shootout. He really kept the Rangers in a game that they had no business being in at times. Not to be outdone, but on a smaller scale, Cory Schneider went for the Devils. He stopped 25 of 28 shots and stopped three shots in the shootout. This was a real goalie duel and a game that both goalies can be proud of. As mentioned, Lundqvist stood out for the Rangers, standing on his head for them and keeping the Devils at bay.

The Devils seemed to be behind the eight ball all night long, but actually notched the first goal of the contest. John Moore, who was playing in his 400th NHL game tonight against a former team of his, took a pass from Nico Hischier, who had gathered the puck from Hall taking a hit along the half wall. Moore skated into the slot and shot high over Lundqvist’s glove hand to give the Devils the 1-0 lead at just the 7:22 mark of the first period. Kyle Palmieri had the secondary assist on the goal.

But the Rangers would respond quickly. Jimmy Vesey scored from Paul Carey and David Desharnais at 9:55 off a mad scramble in front of Cory to tie things up at one. New York would grab the lead before the period was out, with Nick Holden scoring at 11:59 from Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. His goal came on a rebound and gave the Rangers the 2-1 lead going into the second period.

But a funny thing all night was that the Devils would just not go away. After Will Butcher broke up a 2-on-1 early in the second and Cory made a nice stop midway through the period on a New Jersey giveaway in front of his net, a pivotal moment in the game occurred. Nico Hischier had seemingly had scored to tie things up. The goal was immediately waved off on the ice due to Palmieri being called for cross-checking Holden in front of the Devils’ net. The Devils seemed to be in a hole for the first time all night, but Blake Coleman would see that things would move in their direction.

He intercepted a soft pass by Kevin Shattenkirk and skated up ice, shooting from the far faceoff dot. He beat Lundqvist gloveside to tie things up at two. It was Coleman’s first career shorthanded goal and the team’s sixth shorty of the season so far. That goal came at 16:24 of the second period and Steven Santini had the lone assist on it.

There was drama before the period ended too. First, Michael Grabner took a slashing call on Palmieri that can only be described as a good penalty. Palmieri was wide open in front of an empty net and would have scored to give New Jersey the lead had Grabner not taken the infraction. That came at 17:38 of the second and the Devils seemed to be in business. However, at the 18:33 mark, Hall took a holding penalty against Mika Zibanejad to not only event things up, but to give the Rangers a short power play going into the third period. They would not score on the fresh ice and in fact, went 0-for-3 on the night with the man advantage with no shots on goal. The Devils ended the night 1-for-4 with six shots on goal. The power play was merely a microcosm of the night for these two teams.

Despite the shot disparity, however, the Rangers would again take the lead early in the third period when Kevin Hayes, Jimmy’s brother, scored at 1:48 from Brendan Smith and Mats Zuccarello to make it 3-2. The Devils’ collective backs were to the wall again.

This time, the hero was Brian Boyle. On the power play after Kreider had gone off for elbowing, Boyle stationed himself in the slot and took a pass from Hall out of the far corner. Boyle spun around and fired a backhander that beat Lundqvist just over the glove, tying things up at three. The goal came at 11:54 of the third and Palmieri had the secondary assist, giving him two points on the night.

And that was it for the scoring. Once regulation ended and the game was headed for overtime, the fans of both teams were on pins and needles. The OT saw lots of back-and-forth action until the 3:52 mark when Brady Skjei broke in on Schneider and Hall was called for a hooking penalty that, again, he almost had to take or give up a clear scoring chance. The remainder of OT would be played 4-on-3 and all seemed lost for the Devils faithful.

But New Jersey killed it off and we were now headed to a shootout. Hall shot first for the Devils and Lundqvist made the save. Schneider stopped Zuccarello and then Palmieri scored for the Devils. A stop would win it for the Devils, but Zibanejad found the back of the net behind Cory to even things up. The next round saw Drew Stafford stopped by Lundqvist and Vesey stopped by Cory. Boyle was up and connected on what would be the game winner. The game was on Shattenkirk’s stick and Cory stopped him with a right pad save to end it. The Devils had pulled out the two points against all odds.

In the end, Palmieri was named the game’s third star while Coleman was the second and Boyle, the former Ranger-turned-Devil the game’s number one star. Stats-wise, Sami Vatanen led all Devils’ skaters with 24:11 total ice time. He also tied in the shots on goal lead with six along with Palmieri. Hall, Stafford, Stefan Noesen, and Santini all had two hits apiece to tie for the lead in that category. As for blocks, Andy Greene and Santini each had four to lead the Devils. The Devils won 43-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

The story of the game, however, was New Jersey outshooting the Blueshirts by twenty shots. A really amazing statistic and showed that the Devils earned the victory as they were relentless on the puck all night, clogging up passing lanes and gobbling up the puck.

The Devils now take the lead in the season series with the Rangers, having split the two at Madison Square Garden earlier this season. They have one more meeting later on in the year at the Prudential Center that will hopefully be even more important.

Next up for the Devils, Saturday night, they faceoff with the Chicago Blackhawks at The Rock. It may not be the same intense rivalry atmosphere as tonight, but it will be an important game against a Western Conference foe who has been playing better of late and has the chance to be a statement game for the Devils, as they can sweep the season series from Chicago.

Devils Fall in Regulation for Second Straight Game

With the Devils’ rough loss to Columbus last night, they were looking to right the ship against their Hudson River rivals as they traveled to the Garden on a snowy night in the New Jersey/New York area. Usually, a rivalry game would cure exactly what ails a team, but there are two sides to a rivalry. The Rangers were also coming off of a loss last night (to the Washington Capitals) and were also looking to right their ship. For Devils fans, things would not go quite as planned. The Rangers came away with the 5-2 win on a Saturday night in New York City.

The uphill battle would be there for the Devils to begin with. The Rangers have won nine of their last ten on Garden ice. And speaking of the Garden’s ice, it was not very good tonight, as the puck was bouncing everywhere. Apparently, according to Ken Daneyko, there was a college basketball game earlier this afternoon and that negatively affected the ice. But both teams have to play on the surface, no matter how bad it is, so that is not an excuse for New Jersey.

One milestone that I neglected to mention from last night’s game, as Taylor Hall played in his 100th game as a New Jersey Devil last evening versus the Blue Jackets. Tonight was his 101st. Also, with last night’s loss and the Capitals’ win over the Rangers, both Columbus and Washington leapfrogged the Devils, moving them into third place in the Metropolitan Division coming into tonight’s game. They remained there after tonight’s loss since Washington did not play, the Penguins and Islanders both lost and only the Jackets won (but they were already in first place so it really did not matter, they just gained a point). The Rangers, however, continue to climb back into the race after a rough start to their season with this win.

Roster-wise, Drew Stafford was out in favor of Pavel Zacha (who ended up playing a decent game after sitting for a few games – coach John Hynes wanted to see more consistency in his competitiveness) and Dalton Prout and Steven Santini sat on defense. Ben Lovejoy slotted back in on defense.

Goaltending saw the Devils go to Keith Kinkaid for the second half of a back-to-back. He made 34 saves on 39 Ranger shots. New York went right back to Henrik Lundqvist in the second half of their back-to-back. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he was starting simply because it was a “big game.” He made 26 saves on 28 Devils shots.

And Lundqvist would get some support too. The Rangers broke the seal on the game just 6:14 into the game when Jimmy Vesey scored from Paul Carey and Boo Nieves to make it 1-0. Kinkaid would follow up that goal with a nice save on Rick Nash on a breakaway.

The second period began with a bit of a scare when Andy Greene was hit in the ear with a puck. He was okay and would not miss a shift, however. There was also an incident that saw Miles Wood bump Lundqvist on a breakaway only for Kevin Shattenkirk to take exception. The two got into a shoving and wrestling match and Wood would eventually go off with a double minor for roughing while Shattenkirk got just two minutes (also for roughing). The Rangers would not score on that power play and ended up 0-for-3 on the night – the same as the Devils. New York had five power play shots while New Jersey had four.

The Devils had two nice chances in the middle of the second period, first when a Brian Gibbons shot beat Lundqvist and trickled slowly towards the goal line, seemingly on its way to tying things. However, Mats Zuccarello was “johnny on the spot” for the Rangers and cleared the puck. Next, Blake Coleman would nick the post and send the puck just wide, denying the Devils another chance at tying things at one. Immediately following that chance, however, the Rangers’ Jesper Fast capitalized and made it 2-0 at 9:42 when he scored from Nash.

It would take until the 13:45 mark of the second, but the Devils would finally get on the board and cut the New York lead in half when Damon Severson scored his fourth of the year to make it 2-1. It came when Brian Boyle dug the puck out of near corner. It squibbed out to Coleman, who gave to Stefan Noesen. Noesen went back to the far point to Severson, who let loose a shot that scorched by Lundqvist to put the Devils on the board.

Unfortunately for the Devils, things would begin to unravel from there and it began with a puck that clanged off of the post. The Rangers were killing off a delay of game penalty when Marcus Johansson hit the post in the New York end. Seconds later, just as the Devils power play had ended, Zuccarello stole the puck in the New Jersey zone from Severson, skated right in and roofed it by Kinkaid to make it 3-1 Rangers. That goal was unassisted at 16:03 of the second.

Zuccarello would strike again for his second of the game just 6:21 into the third period. He scored from JT Miller and Ryan McDonagh to make it 4-1.

The Devils would again answer back when Miles Wood scored 13 seconds after Zuccarello’s second goal to make it 4-2. That one came when the Rangers tried to wind the puck out of their zone and Zacha knocked it down. Will Butcher picked up the loose puck and gave back to Zacha at the top of the far faceoff circle. He threaded the needle to Wood, who was standing at the far side of Lundqvist’s goal cage. He slammed it home to cut the Ranger lead in half.

But a Devils comeback was not to be. At the 11:59 mark, Kevin Hayes scored from Nash and Fast to make it 5-2 and send the Rangers fans home happy. Time ticked down and the Devils were dealt their first back-to-back regulation losses of the season and their third regulation loss in four games.

Time on ice was led by Severson, who had 21:29; shots on goal was a five way tie between Nico Hischier, Zacha, Gibbons, Wood and Butcher, who each had three; and hits were led by Coleman with four. The Devils dominated in the faceoff circle for a change, winning 62-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

Next up, the Devils return home to Prudential Center on Tuesday to take on the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Kings. This will be another test against another good team to see if the Devils can get off of their slide. Due to prior obligations, I will be a little bit late getting this game up, as I have to watch a recording of it. Hopefully for Devils fans, however, this game will yield a W and get them two points back into the Metropolitan race.

Kinkaid Solid as Devils Down Rangers

Keith Kinkaid is a native of Long Island. He grew up a fan of the Islanders and Devils’ legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur. In his first appearance against the Rangers (an April 2015 outing in relief of Cory Schneider) he lost and, to paraphrase him, said “I hate that team.” He knows what the Hudson River Rivalry is all about and had one of the best games of his career in his first ever start against the New Yorkers tonight at Madison Square Garden. The Devils hung on to win, 3-2.

The Rangers, like the Devils, were coming off of a loss in the backend of a back-to-back. They lost on Friday to the Columbus Blue Jackets and were starting backup Ondrej Pavelec in goal. It was the first time since 2005 that the Devils and Rangers started their backups against each other (it was Scott Clemmensen for the Devils versus Kevin Weekes for the Rangers back then).

The Devils made some changes to their lineup, slotting in Ben Lovejoy on defense in favor of Mirco Mueller and Dalton Prout and Drew Stafford returning for the first time since he left the season opener with a lower body injury. Stefan Noesen was scratched.

The Rangers came out flying, dominating play in the first period, forcing Kinkaid to stand on his head for New Jersey.

It seemed to continue into the second period as Kinkaid made a huge save on Kevin Hayes, coming across with his left arm, stretching it out to stop Hayes from stuffing the puck in on the side of the net.

However, almost immediately after that save, Rick Nash scored his first of the season from David Desharnais at 5:31 of the second period.

But then the Devils found their game and the ice began to tilt in the other direction. It began at 10:21 of the second when Adam Henrique took a pass out of the corner from Brian Gibbons at the hashmarks just outside the slot of the far faceoff circle. Miles Wood was providing a screen and Henrique fired the shot, beating Pavelec to tie the game at one.

The Devils would grab the 2-1 lead at 16:41 of the second frame when Will Butcher wound the puck around the boards to Lovejoy, who fired a puck on net and had it tipped in front by Wood. Miles Wood got credit for the goal and the Devils, by now, had taken complete control of the game. After having been outshot in the first period, the Devils ended up outshooting New York 12-3 in the second period.

In the third period, the Devils would pad their lead just one minute into the final stanza when Nico Hischier passed east-west through the neutral zone to Butcher, who found a seam and got the puck to Drew Stafford. Stafford went to his backhand and beat Pavelec to make the score 3-1. That goal, Stafford’s first as a Devil, was a power play goal (actually a 4-on-3 goal) set up when Chris Kreider of the Rangers and Kyle Palmieri took coincidental minors for roughing and slashing, respectively, at the end of the second period. Then, just 40 seconds into the third period, the Rangers’ Tony DeAngelo was called for cross checking Hischier, putting the Devils on the man advantage. The Devils would finish the night 1-for-5 on the power play and managed to stay out of the sin bin enough to keep the Rangers 0-for-3.

That assist for Will Butcher also made him the first New Jersey Devil to have eight assists in his first five games. He has been all that he was advertised as and a truly great pickup for the Devils. He was named the second star of the game by the media.

WIth the score still 3-1, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault would pull Pavelec with 3:04 remaining in the game. The Devils were unable to ice the game and Kevin Shattenkirk placed almost a perfect shot by Kinkaid to narrow the Devils’ lead to 3-2 (assist to JT Miller), but the Devils would hang on to defeat New York by the same 3-2 score.

Pavelec made 16 saves on 19 Devils shots on the night while Kinkaid was amazing, particuarly in the first and third periods, when the Devils were outshot (14-3 in the first and 14-4 in the third). He made 29 saves on those 31 shots and was named the game’s first star.

So the Devils improve to four wins versus one loss on the year and head home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday at The Rock. That game airs nationally on NBCSN (the Devils one appearance on the channel this season) and should be a good one. It will be another test for the Devils, as the Bolts are expected to challenge Pittsburgh and Washington in the Eastern Conference come playoff time with a healthy Steven Stamkos. We will see if the Devils are up to the challenge this Tuesday.