Devils Lose to Rangers, Shut Down Hughes for Season

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!

Cory’s Revenge: Devils Edged by Islanders 4-3

As promised, I watched the recording of Sunday’s Devils-Isles game from Prudential Center. I had been dreading it after hearing not only about the loss, but also that Jack Hughes had left the game with an apparent knee injury.

We will get to that shortly, obviously, but first let’s set the stage for the game and get this one in the books so we can move on from last weekend.

The Devils went with pretty much the same lineup from Saturday’s overtime loss to the Florida Panthers (who coincidentally became the first team to qualify for the playoffs on Sunday when they beat the Buffalo Sabres).

Colton White, Mason Geertsen, Miles Wood and Jon Gillies were all scratched. The only change saw Pavel Zacha return from injury up front and Michael McLeod scratched in his stead.

In goal, it was right back to Nico Daws after Andrew Hammond took the reigns as the starter the night before. Hammond, with Gillies scratched, served as Daws’ backup.

On Sunday, Daws made 25 saves on 29 total Islander shots for an .862 save percentage. He was equal to the Isles’ lone shorthanded shot but let in their only power play chance. At even strength, he made 24 saves on 27 shots. The Islanders, as a team, were 1-for-3 on the power play.

For New York, there were two main threads in this game. One of them involved who was in net for them with Ilya Sorokin injured for the moment.

Old friend Cory Schneider made his first NHL appearance in more than two years. His last NHL game was actually just prior to the league shutting down for COVID back on March 6, 2020 when (as a Devil) he beat the St. Louis Blues. That was also his last NHL win. This was also his second only meeting against the Devils as his other one came in 2012 when he was a member of the Vancouver Canucks. This game served as his Islanders debut.

Cory made 27 saves on 30 total Devils shots for a .900 save percentage. He stopped the Devils’ two power play shots and made 25 saves on 28 five-versus-five shots. As a team, the Devils were 0-for-2 on their power play opportunities.

This was actually the Devils’ first ever appearance on TNT… and the Islanders’ second in exactly two weeks.

It was also the final meeting of the season between the youngest team in the NHL by average age (the Devils) and Lou Lamoriello’s Antiques Roadshow. The teams last met with two games in December and January at the UBS Arena. Their first meeting of the year was at the beginning of the season at Prudential Center.

The Devils opted to wear their black alternate uniforms on national television, contrasting with the Islanders’ more traditional and classic white, blue and orange road uniforms.

The Isles got on the board 11:56 into the game when JG Pageau found the back of the net for the first time in the afternoon.

Another former Devil Kyle Palmieri carried the puck along the left-wing boards after getting a pass from Adam Pelech. Palmieri made a sort-of stutter step around the Devils’ defenseman as he went for a sweep check that also served to back the defender up a bit.

Palmieri used that extra space to center to Pageau, who was cutting through the middle. Pageau took the pass and shot along the ice, beating Daws five-hole to put New York up 1-0.

Following that goal, the Devils would lose forward Nathan Bastian when Ross Johnston gave him a high cross-check to the face. Bastian left down the tunnel and would not return, having played just 4:55 on the afternoon.

The Devils would end up losing two more players in the second period basically on one play.

But before that, Pageau and the Isles would double their lead on the power play.

Jesper Boqvist was called for a trip against Zdeno Chara at 13:39 of the first to give the Islanders the man advantage. This penalty gave us the rather comical visual of Boqvist, all 6-feet of him, getting tangled up with the 6-feet, 9-inch Chara and taking him down.

Anyway, with New York with the extra attacker, Pageau would strike again.

At the 14 minute mark, Anders Lee went to the bench to grab a new stick after his old one failed him. Zach Parise handed him his and Lee entered the Devils zone. He intercepted the puck, made a nice move around the Devils defense, splitting defenders and got a shot off on Daws. The rebound ricocheted off of Damon Severson and right to Pageau, who scored.

This was Pageau’s second goal of the evening, so it was essentially JG Pageau 2-Devils 0 heading into the second period.

Pageau was not done there, though.

But first an incident that may or may not have longer reaching consequences than Devils fans would hope.

Early in the new period, about 4:30 or so in, Jack Hughes had the puck in the far corner in the Islanders zone. Oliver Wahlstrom closed in on him and laid a hit on him that caught Hughes on the right thigh with Wahlstrom’s left thigh as Hughes was releasing the puck around the boards.

The impact of the hit, which I should stress, was completely legal (not knee on knee nor interference – just Wahlstrom finishing his hit as Hughes began to turn away from him to sidestep him) caused Hughes’ left knee to kind of hyperextend behind him into the air.

Hughes would go back to the bench and then try to skate on it during a TV timeout. He seemed fine. On his next full shift, however, he collapsed on a turn and had to finally leave the game when his knee simply could not support him.

Hughes had played 10:14 in this game and had a four-game goal scoring streak ended.

Meanwhile, while everything was happening with Hughes, PK Subban had seen the hit by Wahlstrom and Hughes being shaken up. He wasted no time in going after Wahlstrom in retaliation and to stick up for his superstar teammate.

Subban skated right up to Wahlstrom and did not give him a chance to drop the gloves. He eventually would and they did fight at 4:36.

In the end, both Subban and Wahlstrom each got five for fighting with Subban also receiving the instigator, a ten-minute misconduct and the aggressor game misconduct, with the Devils losing him for the game as well. The game misconduct was for essentially beginning the fight without Wahlstrom being able to get set and defend himself. PK ended up with 27 total penalty minutes out of the play.

Hopefully Hughes is okay and we will have an update on his health very soon.

Pageau would complete the natural hat trick at the 14:58 mark of the second when the Isles won an offensive zone faceoff. Palmieri was able to move the puck to Pelech at the point. Pelech centered to Pageau, who was camped out on the doorstep in front of Daws.

Pageau scored to complete his second career NHL regular season hat trick. This was also the second straight game for the Devils involving a hat trick, as Yegor Sharangovich had one for New Jersey on Saturday night in their losing effort against the Panthers.

The Islanders (or, again, more precisely JG Pageau) had now built up a 3-0 lead.

The Devils, though, finally got on the board a little less than a minute after Pageau completed his hatty.

At the 15:45 gone by mark of the second, Janne Kuokkanen gained the New York zone and gave it to Severson. Severson blasted an absolute bomb that Boqvist – who was now set up in front of the Isles’ net – used his superior hand-eye coordination to tip by Schneider to make it 3-1.

At first, the Islanders argued that Boqvist had played the puck with a high stick, but replays showed that he was well below the crossbar and the goal was legal. It counted and the Devils now had a bit of life.

The third period began with the Devils capitalizing on that extra life.

This goal was all the Devils using their superior speed to create offense as it gave Tomas Tatar room to operate with room when he found the back of the net.

At 5:32 into the third period, Dawson Mercer gave the puck to Andreas Johnsson who was able to back up the Islanders’ defense. Tatar gained an inside position on an Isles defenseman as he was crashing the net, took a pass from Johnsson and roofed it over Schneider to cut the New York lead to one at 3-2.

The Devils had fought back into things and seemed poised to erase the bad taste of the blown lead against Florida on Saturday.

But the Isles kept at things.

At the 14:35 mark of the third, Ryan Graves attempted bank the puck up and off the boards to clear it. Pelech got it and gave to Pageau. Pageau then hit Palmieri with a pass.

The former Devil then re-entered the New Jersey zone and simply sniped one far side on Daws off of the rush to build the Isles lead back to two at 4-2.

The Devils now needed to fight back from two goals once again and they would at least get back within one in the next few minutes.

Daws was pulled with just under three minutes remaining in regulation time.

With the sixth attacker on for the Devils, New Jersey was able to set up in the Islander zone. Dougie Hamilton took a shot from the point that was blocked in front and came to Mercer on a scramble in front. A loose puck was picked up by Nico Hischier, who shot just under the crossbar from right in front to score and cut the New York lead to one once again. The Islanders had a 4-3 lead.

With just under a minute to go in the game, Daws was pulled again for the sixth attacker as the Devils frantically tried to get things tied up.

But in a moment that was both frustrating and kind of poetic for Devils fans, Cory Schneider made a final great save to preserve the Islanders win. He stopped a New Jersey chance with his left toe and scrambled back into position to be ready for a rebound.

The play was athletic and showed a flash of the elite Cory of old. The elite Cory that simply stole wins the Devils had no business winning in his first few seasons here.

But on Sunday, it was in a New York Islanders uniform and it was they who got the two points.

The Devils outshot the Islanders by one at 30 to 29. The Devils won 42-percent of the game’s faceoffs as a team.

Hughes led the Devils centers in faceoff wins even in his limited playing time of 10:14 before he left with his injury. He won at a clip of 67-percent.

The Devils accumulated 31 penalty minutes (largely due to the PK Subban game misconduct) while the Isles had only nine. New York edged the Devils in hits with 24 to New Jersey’s 23. Blocked shots saw the Islanders with 12 and the Devils with ten. Team giveaways had the Devils register 13 to the Islanders’ four.

Ice time for the Devils was obviously very concentrated since the team lost two forwards to injury and a defenseman to an ejection. Hamilton led everyone in time on ice with 24:30 – which included 1:12 on the power play and 1:23 on the penalty kill. Severson actually led the defensemen in special teams time with 2:51 on the PP and 2:59 shorthanded out of his 23:57 of total ice time.

Among the forwards, Hischier led with total ice time of 21:16, which included 2:25 on the power play and 2:22 shorthanded. Only Jesper Bratt had more power play time at 2:44 (out of his 18:15 total TOI) than Hischier.

Mercer led the Devils in points with his two assists. Hischier led in total shots with five. Hits were led by Severson with four. Blocked shots were led by Jonas Siegenthaler with two. Personal turnovers were co-led by Hamilton and Siegenthaler, who had three each while personal takeaways saw Sharangovich and Zacha lead with one apiece.

And now that we are all caught up, the Devils will next play tonight as the “other” New York team crosses the Hudson to visit the Devils.

The Devils will play the Rangers at Prudential Center with puck drop coming at 7 PM tonight. The Devils broadcast will air on MSG+2 and we will have coverage for you following the finale of the game later this evening.

This will be the final meeting of the season between these two rivals and, hopefully the Devils can score a W to finally get off of their skid.

Until then, have a great Tuesday everyone!