The Devils had a chance to hit their arch-rivals where it hurt the most: they could have knocked them further down in the race for the President’s Trophy as top team in the NHL’s regular season. Being the first overall team in the NHL would also guarantee the Rangers home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. They are currently doing battle with the Anaheim Ducks and the Montreal Canadiens for that honor. In the first half of a home-and-home against New York, the Devils came up short in their objective of impairing the Rangers playoff hopes.
The Devils actually did the Rangers a favor by beating Montreal last night (April 3), as it gave New York a leg up with the Habs dropping the extra point. They helped the Rangers cause again on Saturday night when they dropped a head-to-head matchup at Madison Square Garden. The two teams meet again on Tuesday, April 7 at the Prudential Center in the back end of a home-and-home series.
The Devils played well in the Rangers end most of the game; they just could not solve goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Unfortunately, the Rangers played even better in the Devils end and pretty much dominated New Jersey all night. It was not pretty for the Devils. It seemed that the Rangers were connecting on every scoring chance, as they chased Cory Schneider early in the first period in favor of backup Keith Kinkaid, who had equal amounts of trouble from the offensively gifted New Yorkers.
Schneider was pulled after seeing three pucks behind him on the Rangers’ first six shots of the game. Ultimately, Kinkaid would give up three more as they would lose 6-1 in a complete drubbing at the hands of the Rangers. The lone New Jersey goal came at 16:30 of the third when a Tuomo Ruutu wrister beat Lundqvist off assists from Mark Fraser and Jordin Tootoo and broke the shutout. Although Ruutu got the credit, many (including Devils color analyst Ken Daneyko) felt that it was actually tipped in by Jacob Josefson and that the goal will be changed eventually on the score sheet. Ruutu, whether he gets the credit for the goal or not, played a good game with some passion, something that was mostly lacking from New Jersey most of the night and something that the Devils needed against such a high-powered opponent.
For the Rangers, Dominic Moore had two goals on the night, Rick Nash notched his 42nd goal of the season, Keith Yandle got his 44th assist of the year (as well as his 6th goal), while Derek Stepan, who victimized the Devils back in December with a hat trick, had a shorthanded goal at 19:57 of the second period.
The Rangers speed showed as they got to loose pucks left and right. As mentioned, they also converted on almost every offensive opportunity they had. The bottom line is that the Rangers won the little battles and the Devils could not keep up. New York looked like a playoff team and a Stanley Cup contender, while the Devils looked like they were just coming out of training camp.
Hopefully for the Devils, they will come out swinging on Tuesday and give the Rangers a real fight for their two points. The Devils may be not be playing for a playoff spot, but they are playing for pride. Part of that pride is not rolling over for your arch-rivals. The Devils were embarrassed at the Garden and that will, most assuredly, light a fire under them for the re-match at The Rock.
The New Jersey Devils have one more chance to change the Rangers fortunes as they head into the postseason. Hopefully they were embarrassed sufficiently enough that they will come out on Tuesday with some fight. If they do not, it could be pretty a pretty ugly scene.