The Devils came off of their loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Allentown, Pennsylvania looking to address a few issues as they skated into Madison Square Garden to face off with the New York Rangers.
It would be the Garden debut of the highly touted rookie Jimmy Vesey for the Rangers and a chance for the Devils to get some of their youngsters some ice time.
Scott Wedgewood started between the pipes for the Devils, with Mackenzie Blackwood backing him up. Wedgewood would play the entire game, making 28 saves on 31 New York shots. The Rangers split time in net between Antti Raanta and Mackenzie Skapski. They made a combined 28 saves on 29 Devils shots.
The big story coming out of this game was the time the teams spent in the penalty box. The Devils had five power plays and took six penalties, too much for both teams, but even more for the Devils considering the Rangers converted on two of their six power plays. The Devils also narrowly outhit the Rangers, 27 to 26 and both teams had 11 shots blocked.
Things got off to a fast start when Wedgewood made two quick saves on a Jimmy Vesey breakaway just 27 seconds into the game. Vesey also drew a slashing penalty from Nick Lappin, putting New Jersey behind the eight ball early. Although the Devils would kill that one off, Andy Greene would immediately be called for cross checking at 2:13.
And sure enough, John Gilmour would score on the ensuing power to make it 1-0 Rangers. Kevin Hayes and Brandon Pirri had the assists. Pirri would be all over the scoresheet, scoring the next two New York goals on the night.
Six minutes or so later, Pirri would make it 2-0 when he beat Wedgewood off assists from Nathan Gerbe and Pavel Buchnevich it was now 2-0 Rangers.
The Devils had some moments in the first, particularly on defense. Late in the period, after Jesper Fast of the Rangers took a pass from teammate Dylan McIlrath with an empty net staring back at him, Travis Zajac stepped up and blocked a shot, keeping the score 2-0. The Devils continued to get breaks as, with time expiring in the first, Maxim Lapierre hit the post shorthanded after a Devils scramble in front of the Rangers net saw Lapierre come up-ice with the puck.
Pirri would be called for hooking to end the first period, giving the Devils a fresh sheet of ice for their power play unit in the second. But it was not to be, as the Devils could not convert. Midway through the second, the Devils would again find themselves on the man advantage when Ryan Graves of the Rangers went off for cross checking. On that power play, the Devils would let Fast walk right in on Wedgewood, who would stop him.
The Devils, however, would cut the Rangers lead in half during the second period. Miles Wood would score unassisted when he made a nice hit on the forecheck to give the Devils possession. Ben Lovejoy would sweep the puck to the near corner and it would eventually squirt out to Wood who would fire from the top of the near faceoff circle. MSG+ analyst Ken Daneyko would praise the Devils, feeling that everyone got in on the forecheck and made the goal happen. It was now 2-1 Rangers.
Wood had a very good second period, as he blocked shots, created scoring chances and scored the Devils’ lone goal. He played a good game overall and was one of the stars for the Devils on the night.
The Devils would have other chances. Skapski made a nice save on Pavel Zacha, a play where Wood would also get involved physically. They also had a good scramble in front of the Rangers’ net late in the second, but New York’s Nick Holden made a timely block on a shot and the Devils were denied.
New Jersey would give up a scoring chance to Hayes early in the third, but again Wedgewood was equal to the task. Wedgewood played very well, as Daneyko noted that he almost single-handedly kept the Devils in the game and the score could have been a lot worse than it was if not for him.
The Rangers would put the game away on a 4-on-3 power play early in the third. First, Vojtech Mozik of the Devils would go off for cross checking Hayes at 3:15 to put New York on the man advantage. Rick Nash’s hooking call would even things up at 3:25, but New Jersey’s Andrew MacWilliam would cross check Vesey into the cross bar as Vesey was driving to the net on a scoring chance to put the Rangers back on the power play.
And they would convert again, as Pirri scored from Gilmour and Nicklas Jensen to put the game away.
The Devils would put up a fight late however, including a 2-on-1 late where two defensemen jumped up into the play and had the scoring chance. Skapski made the save on that play, however. But New Jersey would also go on the power play at 17:59, essentially giving them the rest of regulation with a man advantage. Coach John Hynes would pull Wedgewood with about a minute and a half left in the game. But they could not get through. The Rangers won 3-1.
The Devils will now look to Saturday night against the Rangers again, this time at Prudential Center. Cory Schneider and some of the other Devils star players should be ready to go for that game. We should finally get to see what Taylor Hall brings to the team firsthand.