The Devils returned to Madison Square Garden for the second straight Sunday to faceoff with the Rangers in a rivalry game. The difference this time was that the hole the Devils had gotten themselves in was a little bit deeper. New Jersey had dropped five straight games and, although they technically lost their sixth in a row tonight in a shootout, there were many differences that showed that the Devils just may have turned a positive corner.
As the Devils got in late to Newark Airport and then bussed into Manhattan, there was no morning skate, giving the team some extra rest as they headed into yet another backend of a back-to-back. The Rangers were also playing a back-to-back, as they were in Nashville last night.
But the Devils were in a positive state of mind. As Taylor Hall told Deb Placey on the MSG Network pregame show, “We can’t control what Philly and Pittsburgh are going” and that they can only control their own destiny. The Devils also want to work to win their games. Travis Zajac mentioned that they do not want to win a “lucky” one. They want to get on a roll by winning a game that they earned.
They would be turning things around without Jacob Josefson, however. He was injured in the game against Ottawa last night (lower body) and would not dress tonight. Healthy scratches were Luke Gazdic and Devante Smith-Pelly. Back in for the Devils were PA Parenteau, Beau Bennett and Pavel Zacha. Sitting for the Rangers was Adam Clendening and Brandon Pirri.
This was the Devils final trip this season to MSG, as the final two games of the season series will take place at Prudential Center in February and March.
Because both teams got into town at late hours, we did not know the goalie matchup until about 90 minutes prior to puck drop. It would be a battle of the number ones, as Cory Schneider faced off with Henrik Lundqvist. Cory made 25 saves on 27 Rangers shots and Lundqvist made 29 saves on 31 Devils shots. The Devils outshot an opponent for the first time in three weeks in this game.
Lundqvist, who was seeking to move past Dominik Hasek in wins for a European born goaltender, has more shutouts against the Devils than any other NHL team. But that would not be the case tonight, as the Devils did tag him for two.
The first period was scoreless, with the Rangers using their team speed to get a few shorthanded opportunities while the Devils were on the power play early. The Devils would go 1-for-4 on the power play for the night. New York was 0-for-2.
The first goal of the game would come at 4:37 of the second period on the power play. Marc Staal was sitting for a delay of game penalty and Parenteau dropped the puck back to Damon Severson at the point. He gave to Kyle Palmieri at the near circle. Palmieri fired on net and off a mad scramble in front, Parenteau took a shot that Lundqvist swept into the net with his blocker hand. The Devils had the 1-0 lead.
Parenteau, a former Ranger, now has nine goals and 18 points in 20 career games against New York.
The Rangers answered back quickly, as in the middle of the second, Jimmy Vesey rang one off the post. But the Devils were on it and came back with a 2-on-1. Zacha missed the net on that one, as the pass he took was rolling.
The game was back-and-forth, almost firewagon hockey pretty much all night. The Rangers were so taken aback by the Devils response tonight that they had to use their timeout at the 5:38 mark of the second period, killing the momentum that the Devils had built up.
The Devils got out of the second period, not only with the lead, but also having not given up a second period goal for the first time in sixteen games as per MSG Network play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi. This was also the first time the Devils had taken a lead into the third period on the road since the November 26 games at Pittsburgh.
Miles Wood, who was all over the rink all night, had a breakaway at the 16:45 mark but was stopped by Lundqvist.
The Devils still had the lead until the 8:10 mark of the third period. The Rangers did an excellent job of cycling down low, leading to Chris Kreider tying the game up at one. The assists went to Mats Zuccarello and Brady Skjei.
But the Devils had an almost immediate answer in the form of Miles Wood. At 10:32, the rookie took a pass from Adam Henrique, who was forechecking in deep. Wood buried his chance. Palmieri had the secondary assist on the go ahead goal that gave the Devils the 2-1 lead.
And that is how things would remain until 18:47 of the third. New York had pulled Lundqvist and Derek Stepan was able to get one in just under the crossbar after the Rangers had won the faceoff deep in the New Jersey zone. Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein had the assists.
And that is how regulation would end. It was a heartbreaker for the Devils, as they were on the verge of winning in regulation, gaining two points and denying the Rangers any.
Overtime was pure joy… if you happened to not be rooting for either team. It was pure, offensive, back-and-forth hockey with rushes galore. Cory and Lundqvist were amazing all night, but both really came through in the pressure packed overtime.
Unfortunately for both sides, there was no game winner in OT, so a shootout was necessary.
The Rangers elected to shoot first and Zuccarello beat Cory to put New York up 1-0. PA Parenteau was stopped by Lundqvist, Vesey was stopped by Schneider, Hall failed to score as did Stepan. Finally, Michael Cammalleri evened things up by going wide on Lundqvist, waiting and then beating him five hole. The Devils had reset things by tying it up at one.
But when Kevin Hayes beat Cory and Damon Severson (a surprise shooter from Devils coach John Hynes) missed, the Rangers came away with the complete two points.
The Devils played well all night. They won puck battles and, as MSG Network analyst John MacLean would say, their compete level was high. Schneider was on point all night and the Devils just looked sharper than they have in a few games. Overall, they skated with the more talented New York squad and were in the game.
Next up, Tuesday, the Devils finally return home to the Prudential Center to face the Nashville Predators. After that, they have a Metro Division-heavy schedule and the real meat of the slate begins.