To quote coach Lindy Ruff in his postgame presser: “We played a good first period.” What you know he was thinking was “but there were two more periods.”
The Devils’ losing streak continued as the team dropped a 6-1 decision to their archrivals, the New York Rangers tonight at Prudential Center. It was the first of two straight meetings between these teams at the venue.
First up some injury news. Nico Hischier was placed on injured reserve retroactive to February 27 with a sinus fracture and is week-to-week. The injury was suffered against the Capitals last week when an errant PK Subban slapshot hit him in the face shield and pushed the shield into his face.
Janne Kuokannen slotted in for Nico. Ryan Murray, Scott Wedgewood and Nikita Gusev were the healthy scratches for the Devils.
Both the Devils and the Rangers went with two goalies tonight. The Devils by choice, the Rangers due to injury.
Mackenzie Blackwood started for New Jersey, having a 2-0-0 record against the Rangers this season so far. Unfortunately, he was lit up for four goals, making 11 saves on 15 shots for a .733 save percentage. He was 0-for-1, letting in the Rangers’ only power play shot and 11-for-14 at even strength.
After the fourth goal, Aaron Dell came in in relief. He stopped two of four shots for a .500 save percentage. The Rangers ended with 19 shots on net.
For the Blueshirts, Igor Shesterkin started, making 32 saves on 33 Devils shots for a .970 save percentage. He stopped all four power play shots the Devils fired at him. He made 28 saves on 29 shots at even strength.
He got hurt moving left-to-right across the crease, stopping a Damon Severson chance late in the game and Alexander Georgiev came in for him. Georgiev stopped all three shots he faced. The Devils ended with 36 shots on goal in the game.
Following a huge shakeup for the Devils, top scorer Miles Wood was placed on the top line.
The Devils actually got off to a good start, as mentioned by Ruff in his press conference. Jack Hughes came out flying and hit the post early.
He then broke through at 7:12 of the first when Sami Vataenen fired a pass up ice. It missed and bounced off of the end boards as Hughes avoided the icing and grabbed the rebound, scoring to make it 1-0 Devils.
A pair of Chris Kreider goals in the second gave New York the lead heading into the final frame.
The first came 8:28 into the second on the power play when Pavel Buchnevich got the puck up to Ryan Strome. Strome then then went across the grain to Kreider who scored to tie things up at one.
The Rangers finished up 1-for-2 on the power play while the Devils’ woes continued, going 0-for-4.
Kreider struck again at 13:57 when a missed shot by Strome went to Ryan Lindgren. Lindgren shot and Kreider tipped it by Blackwood to make it 2-1 Rangers.
Not too much of a hole there going into the second intermission. It was in the third, however, that the wheels fell off for New Jersey.
Kreider completed the hat trick 23 seconds into the new period when he skated into the slot, taking a pass from Filip Chytil and shooting through a Strome screen. That made it 3-1 New York.
Buchnevich made it 4-1 at the 3:57 mark. It came on a weird odd man rush for the Rangers. With two Devils’ trailers watching the play. Alexis Lafreniere fed Buchnevich and he scored.
The Devils were now down three and Blackwood was pulled, making way for Dell.
And soon after that, Michael McLeod fought Brendan Smith as play moved to the Rangers zone off of the faceoff. It was a quick bout, rapidly broken up by the officials, but not after a few good punches were landed.
Following the Shesterkin injury, the Rangers had two more goals in them.
Smith scored at 15:25 when Phillip Di Giuseppe threw the puck on net. It came out to Smith, who had lots of net to shoot at and he buried it. It was now 5-1 Rangers. Former Devil Kevin Rooney had the secondary helper on that goal, his first point against the Devils as a Ranger.
Lafreniere finished off the scoring when Mika Zibanejad made a backhanded feed to him. He then cut in and scored glove side on Dell. At 6-1, the five-goal deficit was the biggest of year so far for the Devils.
The Devils won 64-percent of the game’s faceoffs, with McLeod winning 75-percent of his draws to lead all centers.
The Devils edged the Rangers in hits, 18-17, but had less blocks at 13-4 and more giveaways at 18-14.
Ty Smith led all Devils in ice time with 21:18, while Hughes led the forwards with 18:53. Kyle Palmieri and Kuokannen led in shots on goal with five each. Hits were led by Nate Bastian and Dmitry Kulikov with three each. Blocked shots were led by Mikhail Maltsev, Will Butcher, Sami Vatanen and Subban with one apiece.
Next up, the Devils do it again on Saturday when the Rangers come into the Rock for the second straight game. That game is at 1 PM and we will, of course, see you here.
Stay safe everyone!