Devils Drop Shootout to Rangers

The Devils entered tonight’s contest, the latest installment of the Hudson River Rivalry, coming off of a matinee loss to the Boston Bruins yesterday afternoon. The result was a tad better this evening, picking up a point as they lost 4-3 in a shootout to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

To begin with, a injury update to deal with that I completely failed to mention yesterday. In the third period against the Bruins at Prudential Center, defenseman Ryan Graves took a cross-check from former Devil Taylor Hall. He left that game and did not return. He was questionable for tonight’s game but did take warmups and suited up for the game.

Graves is the Devils’ leader in average ice time this season, so he was someone they did not want to miss for too long as he eats up a lot of minutes on the back end and kills penalty.

However, Alexander Holtz was held out of the lineup for slight precautionary reasons according to Erika Wachter of MSG+. He joined Colton White and Tyce Thompson watching from the press box. Mason Geertsen did slot back in at forward, playing left winger on the fourth line. Bryce Salvador of MSG+ did speculate that part of this was due to coach Lindy Ruff feeling that the Devils needed some grit in the lineup in a game with the Rangers.

In net, the Devils went back to Mackenzie Blackwood after starting Jonathan Bernier versus the Bruins on Saturday. Blackwood stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced for a .909 save percentage, also turning aside the two Rangers’ power play shots against and 28 of their 31 even strength shots. The Rangers were held 0-for-2 on the power play (although there is a slight caveat to that as we shall see).

Unfortunately, Blackwood did not survive the night. On the Rangers’ final goal of regulation from Kaapo Kakko, Kakko drove to the net and his hip made contact with Blackwood’s head, violently snapping his neck back. The puck did go in at the 6:29 mark of the third period, giving New York the 3-2 lead.

Blackwood was initially checked by the Devils training staff and was able to remain in the game until with 11:22 remaining in regulation. It was then that he signaled to the bench that he could not go while favoring his neck. He left for the locker room with Bernier coming on in relief.

Wachter reported that Blackwood did go into concussion protocol and is being monitored for the injury.

Bernier ended up pitching a shutout in relief, stopping all eight Ranger shots he saw (all at even strength). The Rangers finished with a total of 41 shots against both Devils goalies.

On the subject of why Ruff chose not to challenge for goalie interference, Salvador said during the MSG+ Devils Postgame show that he felt that the call was too close with Kakko leaning into his body and not out to cause injury to Blackwood.  Because the staff could not be sure that they would get the call on the ice (a good goal) overturned and it was late in the game, he did not want to risk getting a penalty out of an unsuccessful challenge, especially considering the Rangers’ power play success this season.

Basically, the challenge was too close to call either way. Ruff confirmed as such in his postgame press conference.

The Rangers had a similar situation with Igor Shesterkin going into concussion protocol yesterday against in their win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Alexandar Georgiev came on in relief in that game and started tonight. Georgiev made 24 saves on 27 total Devils shots for an .889 save percentage. He stopped the Devils’ lone shorthanded shot but let in their only power play shot (the Devils were 1-for-1 on the power play). He made 23 saves on 25 shots at even strength. The game against Columbus for Georgiev was apparently his 100th NHL appearance.

With all of that out of the way, the NHL is starting to feel a tad bit more normal as the MSG+ studio crew made the trip to Madison Square Garden – their first time on the road since March of 2020 when they also traveled to the Garden for a road game. It may not be a whole lot, merely crossing the river into Manhattan, but it is something that we will grasp on to as the world tries to get itself out from under the specter of the COVID pandemic.

This is the first of four games between these teams this season.

The Devils got on the board first, showing some jump off of the bat after their loss on Saturday.

At the 15:23 mark of the first, Dawson Mercer took a pass from PK Subban along the boards in the near corner of the Devils zone. He skated the puck up a bit towards the neutral zone before hitting Jesper Bratt with a pass that sprung Bratt behind the Rangers defense. Bratt broke in alone on Georgiev. Bratt froze Georgiev with a move and then snapped a shot along the ice that beat the Ranger goalie to make it 1-0 Devils.

Both Bratt and Mercer extended their personal point streaks to four games. Also of note is that the primary assist on the goal was Mercer’s first NHL point on the road as per Steve Cangialosi.

The period ended up pulling Georgiev with a faceoff deep in the Devils zone with 0.7 seconds to go in the first. Obviously, the Devils would not have time to score and neither would New York realistically.

The Rangers would end up getting their goal just 3:11 into the second frame. Blackwood made a save on a drive to the net by a Ranger and Damon Severson tried to clear the crease. Unfortunately, he cleared it through the middle of the slot, right to a pinching Adam Fox. Fox intercepted it and backhanded a shot past Blackwood to tie the game up at one.

That ended Blackwood’s shutout streak which extended back through the Florida win, the shutout over the Islanders and into the first period of tonight’s game.

But the Rangers would also end up taking the lead in this period.

The Devils took two straight slashing penalties in the second – PK Subban at the 5:02 mark and Jimmy Vesey at the 9:20 mark.

New Jersey killed off Subban’s penalty and also survived Vesey’s.

But, just as the Vesey penalty expired, Jacob Trouba shot from the goal line on the far side. Blackwood made the save, but the puck popped up and eventually landed in the blue paint of his goal crease. Alexis Lafreniere was right on it in the split second where Blackwood could not find it. He put it in to give the Rangers the 2-1 lead. Kaapo Kakko had the secondary helper – his first point of the season.

The goal occurred just after the power play expired so it was technically an even strength goal. I say “technically” because, in reality, Vesey had come out of the penalty box, but could not jump back in a play happening down at the Devils goal and thus was ineffective, meaning the Devils wee still down a man for that second.

So, with that, the Devils had to struggle from underneath again. But a power play of their own and Dougie Hamilton came to the rescue.

The Rangers’ Ryan Lindgren had been called for interference against Nico Hischier. Since Nico did not embellish this time in the referee’s eyes, the Devils had what would be their lone man advantage of the night.

It would only take one shot to convert.

As Hamilton skated the puck through the neutral zone, he tried to move the puck to Bratt. The puck ended up hitting Bratt’s skate and bouncing right back to Hamilton’s stick. He then simply carried the puck into the New York zone, with only Kevin Rooney standing in his way along the left side.

Rooney hit a rut in the ice and lost his edge, going down and allowing Hamilton a clear shot on Georgiev that he did not miss on. That goal tied the game at two. Pavel Zacha had the secondary assist on the power play goal.

A scary moment for the Rangers early in the third period when forward Sammy Blais was heading for the near corner in the Devils zone along with Subban. The two caught skates together and Blais went down awkwardly as his left knee sort of buckled. He was helped off of the ice by the Rangers’ training staff favoring his right leg. The Rangers were down a forward following that.

Subban was not penalized because the play was merely incidental contact on a hockey play. The Ranger fans did start to boo him and get on him, but it was not a dirty play to say the least.

The Rangers would retake the lead early in the third period on the Kakko goal – his first goal of the year – at the 6:29 mark.

It was a nice defensive play by Kakko as he stole the puck in the neutral zone from Graves, who was carrying it, with a well-timed poke check, recovered it himself and broke into the Devils zone with Ryan Strome. He and Strome played give and go and Kakko got it back in tight and drove in on Blackwood. This is when Blackwood’s injury occurred and Kakko scored to give New York the 3-2 lead.

From there, Blackwood left the game a few minutes later and Bernier came in. The Devils were still down a goal. Zacha would make sure the Devils got at least a point out of the game, however.

At the 17:18 mark of the game, Hischier crossed over the Rangers blue line and dropped the puck to a trailing Tomas Tatar. Tatar kind of fluttered the puck towards Hischier, although much like the Hamilton goal it would take a fortuitous bounce for the Devils.

The puck hit Hischier in the back of his skate and went right to the stick of Zacha who beat Georgiev to tie the game at three apiece.

After all of that craziness, regulation expired, each team had logged a point and we were off to overtime.

The Devils applied pressure, at one point keeping the Rangers’ three-man unit on the ice for more than 90 seconds. However, they could not notch one and we went to a shootout.

Round one began as the Devils went back to Severson, who had the game-clincher in the shootout in San Jose.

Lightning did not strike twice though, and Severson ran out of room as he tried to go back to his backhand, losing control of the puck.

Mika Zibanebad finished out round one for New York. He was stopped by Bernier.

Round two saw Bratt skate for the Devils. He cut up the right-wing boards and shot five-hole on Georgiev, beating him.

Kakko rounded out the inning and scored backhand on Bernier to even it out for the Rangers.

In round three, the Devils went right back to a defenseman as Hamilton took his chance. He lost his handle on the puck as he came in close on Georgiev, but had the wherewithal to simply chip it towards the Ranger goalie and the puck fluttered in in another weird one for the Devils, in turn keeping them alive and putting them ahead in the shootout.

Artemi Panarin took the bottom of the round. Panarin has more points in his NHL career against the Devils than any other team and, although this would not count towards that total, he did score, shooting top shelf to beat Bernier.

In round four, Mercer of the Devils was stopped and Lafreniere of the Rangers shot wide.

Round five had Andreas Johnsson come wide up the right-wing side and score while Strome scored five-hole for the Rangers.

In round six, Tatar was stopped by Georgiev (who used Martin Brodeur’s “Scorpion” save to stop him). Kevin Rooney was then stopped by Bernier in less dramatic fashion.

This took us to round seven. It was again up to Zacha for the Devils, but he was stopped off of a backhand shot. That put the game on the stick of Chris Kreider for New York. He scored to give the Rangers their seventh straight head-to-head win over the Devils.

The Devils were outshot badly by New York 41 to 27. They did win 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Michael McLeod personally winning 81-percent of his draws to lead the Devils’ centers.

The Devils were outhit 22-15 and had less blocked shot at 11 to the Rangers’ 11. The Devils also had more turnovers at 14 to the Rangers’ nine.

Time on ice was led by Graves with 22:18 (including 2:39 shorthanded) while Nico Hischier led the forwards with 19:56 logged (including 18 seconds on the power play and 56 seconds killing penalties).

Zacha led the Devils in points with two (his goal and assist). Shots on goal were led for the Devils by Yegor Sharangovich (who had returned to the lineup for the Boston game) and Bratt who both had three shots. Hits were led by Johnsson, Vesey, Hamilton, Geertsen and Subban who each had two. Blocks were led by Hamilton with three. Giveaways were Severson, Graves and Bratt with two apiece. Takeaways, on the other hand, were led by Sharangovich and Severson with two each.

Next up, the Devils will head back home to try to regroup against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, November 18 at 7 PM. That game is once again on MSG+ and we will have a recap for you right here after the game ends.

Until then, have a great week everyone!

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