Preseason: Devils Dealt First Exhibition Loss

The Devils traveled across the Hudson River to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers in the penultimate preseason game of 2021.

This did not go well from a results standpoint as the Rangers exacted revenge for the blowout they suffered in Newark last week. New York won 6-2.

In a roster move, Joseph Gambardella was assigned to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League earlier today as the Devils’ roster continues to be cut down.

In goal for New Jersey, Jonathan Bernier played the who 60 minutes. He made 26 saves on 32 shots against for an .813 save percentage. He got two of the Rangers’ three power play shots and 24-of-29 at even strength. Nico Daws backed him up.

For the Rangers, Igor Shesterkin made 32 saves on 34 shots against for a .941 save percentage including turning aside the Devils’ two shorthanded shots, all four of their power play shots and 26-of-28 shots at even strength.

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

The Rangers got on the board at the 3:23 mark of the first period when Mika Zibanejad scored. K’Andre Miller got it from the point to the far half wall to Adam Fox. Fox passed against the grain to Zibanejad at the doorstep and he shoveled it in past Bernier to make it 1-0 New York.

Following that, a play that would go on to define the game. New York’s Ryan Reaves tangled up with the Devils’ PK Subban heading into the corner. Their knees locked together and Reaves kind of fell backwards on it in an ugly fall. He left with an apparent knee injury and Subban became a target all night – particularly for Chris Kreider. Kreider would engage Subban early in the second period, but Subban would not fight. Early in the third, Subban would answer the bell against Kreider in a short scrap.

It did not seem to be an intentional slew foot and, in fact, former Devil-turned-Ranger Kevin Rooney would downplay the incident in an interview in the second intermission on the MSG broadcast. However, Subban would hear it from the fans by the end of the game.

The Rangers took the 1-0 lead into the second period. It was at the 3:58 mark when Kaapo Kakko would make it 2-0 unassisted. Kakko grabbed a loose puck when Michael McLeod mishandled it at the New York blue line. Kakko won a footrace with Subban to the Devils’ zone and scored on a partial breakaway.

At the 5:39 mark of the second, Zibanejad notched his second of the game to make it 3-0. The Devils were down two men with the Rangers on a 5-on-3 power play. Ryan Strome got the puck up to Fox at the point. Fox then found Zibanejad with a slick pass at the side of the Devils’ net. It was a layup for Zibanejad. It was almost similar to the first New York goal.

The Devils finally broke the ice at the 9:57 mark of the second when Pavel Zacha dug the puck out of the far corner and passed to Jesper Bratt at the far side of the Rangers’ net. Bratt passed to Andreas Johnsson at the other side the goal and Johnsson tapped the puck in to make it 3-1.

But the Rangers would have a response for the Johnsson goal when Sammy Blais scored unassisted at 14:28. Blais intercepted the puck and made a nice move around the Devils’ defender, crashing the net and putting it in on the far side. That made it 4-1 New York.

And they were not done. Twenty seconds after the Blais goal, Barclay Goodrow made it 5-1. Blais took a shot from the point that was redirected off of a Devils skate to Goodrow, who scored. Jacob Trouba had the secondary assist.

The scoring did not let up in the third period. At the 10:48 mark, the Devils won a board battle to gain possession of the puck. It was thrown into the slot where Mark Jankowski got it and shot. The rebound came out to a trailing Marian Studenic, who was cruising through the top of the slot. He shot and put his own rebound home to make it 5-2.

The capper came from the Rangers less than one minute later. Ryan Strome went hard on the forecheck at the 11:05 mark of the third. He forced McLeod to turn the puck over behind the Devils’ net. Strome then centered it to Artemi Panarin, who did not miss to give us our final of 6-2.

The Devils won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The two teams combined for 55 penalty minutes (31 for the Rangers, 23 for the Devils). The Rangers outhit the Devils 36 to 31 in what was a physical game. The Devils had 13 blocked shots to the Rangers’ eight and New Jersey had one more giveaway than their opponents at nine to eight.

Subban led the Devils in penalty minutes with 17 while Studenic led in shots on goal with five. Former Ranger Mason Geertsen victimized his old team six times to lead in hits. Ryan Graves led in blocks with four. Bratt led in giveaways with two while Zacha led in takeaways for the Devils with four.

McLeod once again led the Devils centers in faceoff percentage with a 67-percent winning clip.

Time on ice was led by Jonas Siegenthaler with 23:39 total ice. Chase De Leo led the forwards with 17:38 of total time on ice. Zacha led in power play time with 2:01 total time.

Next up, the Devils will play the Islanders at home tomorrow in their final game of the 2021 preseason. This will likely be a dress rehearsal for the regular season, which gets underway a week from today. There is a good chance that we see most of the regulars in the lineup.

Until then!