When two rivals get together, you are bound to get a spirited affair and today’s Devils-Rangers game was certainly no snooze-fest. The Rangers came away with the victory, 4-3 in overtime as the Devils came away with a point against their archrivals at a sold out Prudential Center full of delirious Devils and Rangers fans.
The game was a five o’clock start for “Hockey Week Across America” which culminates tonight with the Stadium Series game between the Penguins and Flyers outdoors in Pittsburgh. Those two teams have a good rivalry going of late, but they will be hard pressed to top what the Devils and Rangers did today in terms of sheer end-to-end action.
Speaking of the Stadium Series, this was the 100th meeting all-time between the Rangers and Devils in the state of New Jersey. They did play one game where the Devils were the home team at Yankee Stadium in New York, however, the 2014 Stadium Series game.
Some roster news for the Devils saw Seth Helgeson waived. He cleared waivers but has not been sent down to Albany. That will open up some roster room for the Devils to work with. Also, Pavel Zacha has been diagnosed with a concussion after the hit he took in the Ottawa game against the glass. It was a similar play to the one that caused John Moore’s concussion and Zacha will be out for the foreseeable future. Beau Bennett was in for him. Helgeson and Moore were the healthy scratches for the Devils. The Rangers were without Pavel Buchnevich, Kevin Klein and Matt Puempel.
The goaltending matchup saw Cory Schneider starting for the Devils. He would make 36 saves on 40 Ranger shots for a .900 save percentage. Antii Raanta started for the Rangers, making 36 saves on 39 Devils shots for a .923 save percentage.
In the first period, the Devils outshot the Rangers 16 to 10 and had the first five shots of the game, in fact, but they came out of the opening frame down 2-0. Chris Kreider scored at the 6:40 mark to make it 1-0. He got assists from Dan Girardi and Mats Zuccarello.
The Rangers doubled their lead when Oscar Lindberg scored from Jesper Fast and Nick Holden at 17:32. The Devils were in a hole early on, but would claw their way back in.
It began in the second period. At the 18:28 mark, the Devils got the puck low in the Rangers zone and Bennett passed to Adam Henrique behind the net. Henrique buried the puck on the wraparound to cut the New York lead in half at 2-1. PA Parenteau had the secondary assist on that goal.
This followed some back and forth action with the teams trading odd man rushes just as the first penalty of the game (Devante Smith-Pelly for tripping) was expiring. Cory also came up big with two saves with 3:17 left in the second on Holden and Kevin Hayes.
In the third period, Kyle Palmieri single-handedly got the Devils back in and eventually gave them the lead. First, at just 27 seconds in, Travis Zajac gave the puck to Palmieri just over the Rangers blue line. He fired from the top of the far circle and beat Raanta to tie things up. Taylor Hall had the secondary assist on the goal.
The Devils would get their first of two power plays of the afternoon at 1:10 into the third. Kreider was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. On that man advantage, Zajac won the draw in the New York zone. He got it back to Andy Greene at the point. He fired the puck and it was tipped in by Palmieri to give the Devils a 3-2 lead at 1:14. The Rangers would immediately use their coach’s challenge citing goalie interference in front by Miles Wood. Toronto agreed with the initial call on the ice, saying that the goal was good. Alain Vigneault felt that Wood bumped Raanta as he was backing up into the crease. The referees looked at it and said that there was not enough there to overturn the initial call and the goal stood.
On the power play, the Devils were 1-for-2 on the day while the Rangers were 0-for-1.
From there, the game just took off, with end-to-end action, rushes up the ice and sustained pressure in the offensive zones. But the Devils gave New York too much time with the puck and they eventually were able to tie it. Adam Clendening scored at 15:35 from Kreider and Mika Zibanejad to tie it up at three. The Rangers had come back on the Devils just as they did in their last meeting back in December at Madison Square Garden (in which the Rangers won in a shootout).
With more heart-in-throat action for the final minutes of regulation, the two teams went back and forth, and the Devils hung in for a point.
Overtime continued the trend that was set throughout the game. New Jersey had the first good chance of the extra session when Palmieri broke in on a breakaway. He just missed as Raanta made a toe save on the initial breakaway. Palmieri followed up, creating his own chance on the rebound, but Raanta got that too. Following that, Brady Skjei got the puck up to Zibanejad who broke into the Devils zone on a breakaway. He beat Cory to end it at 4-3.
While the Devils did lose their fourth straight, they did get a point out of the deal and showed that they could hang in with an elite Eastern Conference team like the New York Rangers, so there were some positives and negatives to take out of this game.
Next up, the Devils take on the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night at Prudential Center. Montreal has been playing much better of late under new coach Claude Julien and they currently sit atop the Atlantic Division. But they are fighting off the Ottawa Senators there and, if the Devils play as well as they did tonight, they might be able to come away with the victory.