Hudson River Rivalry Week is a upon us. Four straight between the Devils and the Rangers over the next six days. Tonight, things were kicked off at Prudential Center as the Devils hosted the Rangers and lost, 3-0.
And with the Rangers only four points out of a playoff spot behind the Bruins (who have two games in hand), the Devils are looking to play spoiler this week.
Nico Hischier made his long-awaited return tonight, playing his first game against the Rangers as Devils captain. He centered the second line and finished with two shots and a takeaway over 20:58 of ice time (including 2:51 on the power play). He had been out since February 27 with a sinus fracture. He will be wearing a full cage for the rest of the season to protect his face.
Making his Devils debut was Nico’s fellow countryman, the recently acquired from Washington Jonas Siegenthaler. He wore number 71, the first Devil in franchise history to do so and had two hits and a pair of giveaways in 15:45 of time on ice. He was paired with Will Butcher.
Pavel Zacha remains injured from the game against Pittsburgh where he left after a nine second shift early in the second period. Scott Wedgewood was a healthy scratch as Aaron Dell backed up Mackenzie Blackwood.
Speaking of Blackwood, he stopped 17-of-19 for an .895 save percentage. That was at even strength as well as the Rangers did not get a power play on the night.
Igor Shesterkin, in getting his first career shutout, stopped all 27 Devils shots. He got all 23 at even strength and stopped all four New Jersey power play shots. The Devils were 0-for-2 on the man advantage.
The game started with a bang as 1:27 in, Damon Severson and Chris Kreider squared off with Severson winning via takedown. Severson was upset about a hit on him from Kreider and the two fought. It was not the last scrap we would see in this rivalry game. The only penalty minutes the Devils took all night, in fact, were fighting majors.
Mika Zibanejad got the scoring kicked off when he put New York up 1-0 7:02 into the game. Pavel Buchnevich flipped the puck to him in the neutral zone and he cut in alone, scoring over Blackwood’s glove. Adam Fox had the secondary assist.
This goal followed several great chances at both ends for both teams.
And the Devils had chances all night long. Early in the second period, Miles Wood came off of the bench and took a pass from Ty Smith. He cut in but missed the net.
Another fight at 5:42 of the second when Brendan Smith of the Rangers took a shot at Nick Merkley and Michael McLeod stepped in to take on Smith. McLeod landed some hard rights and eventually took Smith down to win the bout.
The Rangers would add an insurance goal at 7:50 of the third when Artemi Panarin scored. Fox went down low to Filip Chytil and Chytil found a perfect seam to pass to Panarin at the side of the Devils’ net. He hesitated, froze Blackwood and then fired and scored. That made it 2-0 Rangers.
New York nearly got another when Jacob Trouba hit a post midway through the third. This was followed, at the other end, by a mad scramble in front of the Rangers’ net. Somehow on the play, which saw players down and the puck bouncing around, the Devils failed to score.
With a Ryan Lindgren high sticking call at 18:41, the Devils were going to finish the game on the power play and with Blackwood pulled, it was going to be 6-on-4.
Unfortunately for the Devils, this ended in a Buchnevich shorthanded empty net goal with less than 30 seconds to go in the game. Ty Smith had lost the puck at the Rangers’ blue line and Buchnevich was off to the races. That gave us our final of 3-0.
The Devils outshot the Rangers, 27-20. They also won 60-percent of the game’s faceoffs. They had more hits at 19-16 and more turnovers at eight to six. The Rangers led in blocked shots with 15 to the Devils’ eight.
McLeod led the centers with a 75-percent faceoff winning percentage. PK Subban led in ice time with 23:00 while Hischier led the forwards with 20:58.
McLeod led in shots with five while hits were led by Merkley with four. Blocks were led by Wood and Tyce Thompson with two apiece while takeaways were led by Jack Hughes with three.
Next up, it’s game two of this four-game set. The Devils will visit Madison Square Garden on Thursday for a 7 PM tilt, trying to get one up on the Rangers.
Until then, stay safe everyone!