The Devils finished off their New York tour facing the Rangers at Madison Square Garden tonight, losing 6-3 after falling to the Islanders in overtime on Tuesday.
We’ll get right to the nitty gritty of this one since it was not pretty from the perspective of the Devils.
Jesper Bratt and Jack Hughes remain out with injuries, although according to Erika Wachter of MSG Network, interim head coach Alain Nasreddine said that they are progressing “well” and could return soon. Connor Carrick was again the healthy scratch as the Devils iced the same lineup for the third game in a row.
The goaltending matchup saw Mackenzie Blackwood (minus the four teeth he lost in the Islander game on Tuesday) start for the Devils, making 20 saves on 25 shots for an .800 save percentage. He was pulled after the fifth Ranger goal in favor of Louis Domingue. Domingue, making his return from injury, made 11 stops on a dozen New York shots for a .917 save percentage. The Rangers ended the game with 37 shots.
For the Rangers, they went with rookie Russian goalie Igor Shesterkin. He was actually a teammate of Nikita Gusev’s at SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL where they won a Gagarin Cup championship together in 2017. He made his first NHL start and got his first NHL win versus the Avalanche earlier in the week for them. Tonight, he made a whopping 46 saves on 49 Devil shots against for a .939 save percentage.
This game was a wild one to begin with. It began 5:42 into the first when Artemi Panarin put New York ahead 1-0. It was a tic-tac-toe passing play where Tony DeAngelo fed Panarin from behind the net and Panarin took a one-timer from the far faceoff dot. He beat Blackwood to give the Rangers the early lead. Adam Fox had the other assist. A lot was to come for DeAngelo tonight as the New Jersey-native had one to remember.
At the 8:06 mark of the first, Kevin Rooney tied things up for the Devils. It came shorthanded while PK Subban was off for interference. Following a offensive zone start, Pavel Zacha pounced on the puck and threw it on net. Rooney crashed in and put the rebound through Shesterkin’s five-hole to end his 33-game scoreless streak and notch his first of the year. It was also the Devils’ fourth shorty of the season.
DeAngelo got that one right back 1:41 later when he snuck in to the top of the slot and took a pass from Mika Zibanejad. He kind of shot it off of the toe of his stick, as Ken Daneyko of MSG Network observed. That led it to kind of flutter in like a knuckleball on Blackwood. It beat him to give the Rangers back the lead at 2-1.
At the 12:16 mark, Chris Kreider scored on the power play to advance the Ranger lead to 3-1. John Hayden was off for interfering with Kaapo Kakko at 11:32 and New York was on the man advantage. This was a weird one as DeAngelo fired a slapper all the way down the rink. It bounced off of the end boards, and Kreider was there to negate the icing. He had snuck behind the Devils’ defense and was now all alone with the puck. He then put it behind Blackwood for his 300th career NHL point. Zibanejad had the secondary assist.
But the Devils got back on the board before the first intermission at 18:10 when Damon Severson took a pass at the Ranger blue line. He then walked the line and got into a position to shoot, firing it in on Shesterkin. Blake Coleman tipped it by him and in to make it 3-2 Rangers. The Devils had come back to cut the lead to one.
It would seem that the Rangers got that one back when Pavel Buchnevich scored on a breakaway with 1:13 left in the first. There was no signal from the referee right away and the red light did not immediately come on. The officials got together and had a look and the replay showed that the puck hit the crossbar, bounced down and out, but never did cross the goal line. The goal was waved off in the first of two big breaks the Devils would receive on the evening.
The second period began with the other big break for New Jersey. 8:56 into the second frame, Severson ripped a shot that Coleman drove to the net on. It was an innocent looking play as Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba pushed Coleman and the net was dislodged. However, the officials once again got together and looked at a replay from the situation room in Toronto. The call on the ice was no goal, but replay showed that Trouba pushed Coleman and, in a continuous motion, the puck crossed the line as the net was coming off the moorings. The goal counted and Coleman had his second of the night while the Devils had miraculously tied things up.
Tony DeAngelo, however, had other ideas.
At the 12:08 mark of the second, he scored his second goal of the game by taking a pass from Marc Staal at the Devils’ blue line and wristing a shot through traffic to make it 4-3. It was his second goal and fourth point, making him the first Ranger defenseman to have a four-point night against the Devils since James Patrick in 1986 according to MSG Network.
He struck again at 15:02 of the second to complete the hat trick and score his fifth point of the night – factoring into all five Ranger goals. It came on the power play (Nico Hischier was off for high-sticking Fox) when the Rangers just used good puck movement to work it around the perimeter to DeAngelo in the slot. He shot through a screen again to make it 5-3 Rangers.
He became the fist Rangers defenseman to record a hatty since Reijo Ruotsalainen on March 17, 1982 against the Flyers. That was during the 1981-82 season so the Devils were still in Colorado, that is how long ago this happened!
It was after this goal that Blackwood was pulled in favor of Domingue.
But Domingue did not fare much better. In the third period, at the 12:56 mark, Jesper Fast scored on a 2-on-1, taking a pass from Ryan Strome and burying it behind Domingue to make it 6-3 Rangers. Panarin had the other assist. New York had doubled the Devils up and that was how it ended.
On special teams, the Devils were 0-for-2 with six shots (in addition, they also had five shorthanded shots) while the Rangers went 2-for-5 with seven total shots (five on Blackwood and two on Domingue).
The Devils doubled up the Rangers in the third period on shots (18 to nine), but had nothing to show for it.
The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Nico peronally winning 68-percent of his. They edged the Rangers in hits 20-19, had more blocked shots at 19-17 and had less turnovers at nine to the Rangers’ 13.
Individually, Sami Vatanen led in ice time with 24:24 (2:10 on the power play and 2:42 shorthanded included) and Kyle Palmieri led the forwards with 18:30 (including 3:31 killing penalties).
Miles Wood and Subban led in shots on goal with six each, Coleman led in hits with five, Severson led in blocks with three and Palmieri led in takeaways with two.
Next up, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire as the Devils head down to Washington to take on the juggernaut Capitals. That game is a 7 PM faceoff and we will have coverage for you right here on Saturday.