The last time the Devils dropped all games of a five-game or more homestand, according to MSG+ 2, was November 4-14, 2000. That team went on to play for the Stanley Cup, only losing in the championship series to the Colorado Avalanche.
The 2021 Devils join that list of Devils teams to drop all games of a five-game or more homestand today. Maybe there is hope after all.
The Devils got ready for their second straight against the rival New York Rangers. They lost by a score of 6-3, giving up six goals for the second straight game as well.
The only roster change the Devils made for today’s game saw Nikita Gusev slot back in and Michael McLeod loaned to the taxi squad. Mikhail Maltsev moved from wing to center in McLeod’s absence.
In addition, Mackenzie Blackwood was back in after being pulled on Thursday night.
Blackwood made 22 saves on 27 Rangers shots for an .815 save percentage. He stopped six of seven on the power play and 16 of 20 at even strength. The Rangers finished with 28 shots on net with an empty net goal.
Scott Wedgwood served as the Devils’ backup as Ryan Murray and Aaron Dell were the healthy scratches for New Jersey.
Facing him was Alexandar Georgiev, starting for Igor Shesterkin, who suffered a mild groin strain on Thursday. Old friend Keith Kinkaid served as New York’s backup, having been signed as a free agent by the Blueshirts this offseason. It was his first time in uniform this year.
Georgiev made 24 saves on 27 shots for an .889 save percentage. He stopped the lone Devils shorthanded shot as well as their lone power play shot. He turned aside 22-of-25 at even strength.
The Rangers also welcomed back Kaapo Kakko, who had not played since February due to COVID.
Following Chris Kreider’s natural hat trick on Thursday (the fourth of his career), how did we get to the 6-3 final today?
The Devils were back in their Reverse Retro uniforms.
The goal scoring kicked off with a bang. Adam Fox, taking a puck from Georgiev, skated the length of the rink, saw an opportunity and went five-hole on Blackwood. This came in the first two minutes of a double minor for high-sticking to Sami Vatanen and, after Fox simply walked in at the 2:06 mark, New York still had two minutes of power play time left.
The Devils would kill that, but at 7:15 of the first, Ryan Strome scored his first of two when Kreider batted a Devils’ passing attempt down, getting it to Strome, who had walked in behind the Devils’ defense. Strome made a nice backhanded shot that went over Blackwood’s shoulder and in.
Pavel Zacha had tried to make a neat pass out of the Devils’ zone when he needed to go up the boards on the play. Kakko had the secondary assist on the goal.
After Blackwood stopped Filip Chytil on a breakaway, the Devils began a comeback.
At 14:54, PK Subban took a pass at the point from Zacha. He let loose an absolute bomb of a shot that went over Georgiev’s blocker. Jesper Bratt had the secondary assist. It was now 2-1 as the Devils had cut the Ranger lead in half.
Less than a minute later, at 15:11, Maltsev – newly inserted into the lineup – tied things at two. It came when Yegor Shargovich chipped the puck up the boards to Nate Bastian. Bastian made a nice saucer pass to Maltsev, who finished with a nice goal.
It seemed we were headed into the intermission with a 2-2 tie, but then another former Devil struck for the Rangers.
Kevin Rooney scored on a 2-on-1 with Chytil. Chytil passed to Rooney, who chipped it over Blackwood to make it 3-2 going into the intermission instead. Julien Gauthier had the secondary assist on the goal that came at the 17:06 mark.
In the second, New York’s Libor Hajek made it 4-2 1:05 in. K’Andre Miller went deep into the Devils’ zone and stripped the puck. Pavel Buchnevich got it to Hajek at the point and he scored clean with no tip.
That was the only scoring of the second.
In the third, Chytil made it 5-2 Rangers when Gauthier stole the puck just outside the Devils’ blueline. He tried a wraparound and the rebound came out to Chytil who buried it at the 8:39 mark of the third.
The Devils were falling behind again but had one last gasp.
At 17:48 into the third, Bastian made it 5-3 when Bratt went wide, nearly lost the puck, but got it to Travis Zajac. Zajac centered it and Bastian’s shot trickled through Georgiev to get the Devils a little bit closer.
The Devils immediately pulled Blackwood after the Bastian goal to frantically try to tie things, but Strome scored his second into the empty net from Fox to make it 6-3, our final.
The Devils have now lost nine straight at home and their last regulation win was February 18 at Boston.
For the Devils, Subban led in time on ice with 24:22 while Kyle Palmieri led the forwards with 19:35.
The Devils led in faceoff wins with 54-percent with Zajac leading the way with a 75-percent winning percentage amongst Devils centers.
The Devils went 0-for-1 on the power play while the Rangers went 1-for-5. The Devils also outhit the Rangers, 23-17, but had less blocked shots at five to the Rangers’ nine. The Devils also had more giveaways at 26 to the Rangers’ 24 in a pretty sloppily played game.
Shots on goal were led by Maltsev with three, hits were led by Bastian at four, blocks were led by Will Butcher with two and takeaways by Miles Wood with two.
Next up, the Devils travel up to Boston tomorrow for a meeting with the Bruins on NBCSN as a part of “Hockey Day in America.” Puck drop for that game is at 5 PM and we will see you then right here.
Stay safe everyone!