Devils have been fighting a war of attrition all season. Tonight, they may have finally waved the white flag finally.
After losing 20 goal scorer Yegor Sharangovich following an ill-advised fight gone wrong, they made the announcement that another 20-plus goal scorer in Jack Hughes will not be returning for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. In addition, Jimmy Vesey got injured and had to leave the game.
Top that off with a 3-1 loss to their cross-river rivals and it was not a fun night to be a Devils fan.
Let’s start with the lineup. Michael McLeod and Miles Wood slotted back in up front. Wood had been feeling “overall soreness” and had been held out of the last couple of contests.
Colton White, Mason Geertsen and Jon Gillies were the healthy scratches while Nathan Bastian was injured by the cross check on Sunday against the Islanders and was out of tonight’s game at Prudential Center.
Hughes was held out due to the lower body injury suffered by the hip-to-hip hit by Oliver Wahlstrom against the Isles on Sunday. The Devils promised a status update on him by the first intermission and when it was given, it was to be expected, yet still disappointing.
Hughes will be shut down for the rest of the season with a “low grade MCL strain” as per Devils medical staff. He will begin motion rehab and conditioning immediately.
Although Hughes was having a career year, this is to be expected and a smart move. The Devils are not making the playoffs, so why rush Jack into a potentially dangerous and career-altering situation when there is little benefit for all involved? He finished the season with a career-high 26 goals.
With Hughes and Bastian missing due to injury for this game, some shaking up of the forwards needed to be done. Dawson Mercer was moved back to center on the second line while Pavel Zacha centered the fourth line. McLeod would play right wing on the fourth line with Bastian out.
In goal, where the Devils are suddenly, dare I say, healthy (believe it or not), Nico Daws was back in the starter’s crease. He made 14 saves on 17 total New York shots for an .824 save percentage on the night. The problem was he let in both Rangers power play shots in addition to the one even strength shot he allowed in. He was 14-for-15 at even strength. The Rangers went 2-for-3 as a team on power play opportunities.
The Rangers started Alexandar Georgiev who made 20 saves on 21 total Devils shots for a .951 save percentage. All of those shots came at five-versus-five as the Devils did not register a special teams shot at all. They were 0-for-2 on the power play as a team.
This was the final game of the Hudson River Rivalry for the season with the Devils looking to get a split in the series. The home team had won each of the other three games throughout the year, including the Devils’ 7-4 blowout win in their last meeting in Newark.
Each team was in the midst of a losing streak with the Devils having lost their three prior and the Rangers their last two. The Devils, however, had only two wins in their last ten games overall.
The Devils were in their black third uniforms for the second straight game on this four-game homestand.
The Devils seemed to be continuing on the tract of jumping on the Rangers when they got out to a quick lead 6:56 into the game.
This one saw Sharangovich pick off a breakout pass being attempted by Ranger defenseman Jacob Trouba just outside of the New York zone. Trouba tried to make the pass back through the middle blindly.
Sharangovich timed getting his long-rangy stick on the puck just right and knocked the puck down, grabbed it and was on his way back into the Rangers zone.
He skated in on Georgiev alone, moved to his backhand and scored his 20th goal of the season unassisted to make it 1-0 Devils.
With Sharangovich scoring his 20th of the year, he became the third Devils player to record at least 20 goals in 2021-22 along with Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt. Nico Hischier also stands currently at 19, so could very well become the Devils’ fourth 20 goal scorer this season.
This is the first time since 2017-18 season that New Jersey had at least three 20 goal scorers.
Sharangovich made his mark on the scoreboard and was about to continue on in another way.
At the 10:05 mark, Jesper Boqvist got leveled by the Rangers’ Braden Schneider in an open-ice hit just near the benches.
It was a clean hit, but Sharangovich saw his linemate down and decided to step up for him, just as PK Subban (who was being booed by the Ranger fans in the building all night tonight) came to Jack Hughes’ defense on Sunday.
Sharangovich fought Schneider and both would end up with five-minute fighting majors. Sharangovich also ended up with the two-minute instigator – putting New York on the power play – as well as a ten-minute misconduct, which would shorten the Devils’ bench for the rest of the first period.
Sharangovich, however, would not return for the rest of the game. After only playing 2:06, he suffered an injury during the altercation with Schneider including a welt on his forehead. It was the first casualty the Devils would suffer in the game.
The Rangers, however, would capitalize on the ensuing power play at 11:07 of the first period.
The puck was moved up to Artemi Panarin at the right-side boards. Panarin passed down to Chris Kreider in the far corner. Kreider then made a one-touch pass to Ryan Strome in the slot. Strome scored to tie the game at one.
The Rangers had scored the first of their two power play goals.
The second one was set up when Zacha took a holding call at 17:32 of the first against Adam Fox.
The Rangers were up a man, and, at 17:57 gone by, Fox moved the puck to Panarin at the right-wing wall. Panarin passed down to Kreider at the close side of the Devils net. Kreider simply tipped the pass up and over Daws from a sharp angle just at the goal line.
The Kreider goal, which made it 2-1 Rangers, would go down as the game-winning goal for the evening.
The second period saw no scoring and was relatively low event.
Until the midway point or so when Jimmy Vesey became the latest Devil to go down to injury. He was finishing a check behind the Rangers net and seemed to twist his own knee on the play. He favored his left leg as he was being helped off of ice to the Devils locker room. He had played just 5:55 on the night – although he did get 1:16 on the penalty kill.
The Rangers nearly converted again on special teams while killing an Andrew Copp tripping penalty just after Vesey’s injury. On a shorthanded 2-on-1, Strome hit the crossbar and the Devils dodged a bullet for the moment.
The score remained 2-1 heading into the third period.
It was then that New York added an insurance goal.
This one came 3:55 into the third when Copp passed from down low up to Schneider at the far point. Schneider went D-to-D with Justin Braun. Braun shot and it hit Jonas Siegenthaler and redirected in high by Daws to make it 3-1, our final.
Daws would be pulled for a sixth attacker with a little over 2:15 remaining in regulation time. The Devils did not get much going and, at the 19:10 mark, Tomas Tatar was nabbed for tripping Frank Vatrano, which put the Devils shorthanded to end the game.
And that was that when time ran out.
Frustratingly, the Devils did outshoot the Rangers 21-17. New Jersey won just 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Boqvist was the Devils center who led in personal faceoff wins at 50-percent over his 12:56 of total ice time.
The Devils, with Sharangovich’s fight adding things up, ended up with 21 total team penalty minutes while the Rangers had just nine. The Rangers also had more hits at 20 than the Devils at 18. New Jersey’s nine blocked shots led New York’s six blocked shots. Team turnovers saw the Devils double up with 14 to the Rangers’ seven.
Damon Severson finished with 22:58 of total ice time (including 2:28 on the power play and 1:02 on the penalty kill). Siegenthaler led the defensemen in shorthanded time with 2:17 out of his 18:45 of total time on ice.
The forwards saw Jesper Bratt log 22:16 of total ice time which included 2:02 of power play time. Hischier had 2:02 of power play time as well and also led the forwards in penalty kill time with 1:42. That was included in his 22:08 of total ice time.
Sharangovich led the Devils in penalty minutes with 17 accumulated. Shots on goal were led by Hischier with four. Hits saw Tatar led with three. Blocked shots were led by Ryan Graves, Ty Smith and Subban who all had two. Personal turnovers were led by Subban with four while personal takeaways were led by Hischier, Sharangovich, Boqvist and Tatar, who each had one.
Next up, the Devils homestand comes to a close at Prudential Center on Thursday when the Montreal Canadiens return.
Puck drop for that game is at 7 PM and listed as being televised on MSG+2 (for now). We will, of course, have coverage for you right here at the conclusion. There will probably be some call ups from the Utica Comets seeing the Devils rather thinned out roster.
We will see who gets their shot in the last three weeks of the season and who sinks or swims.
Until then, enjoy your week everyone!