With the New York Football Giants taking on the Dallas Cowboys a few miles away at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, there was another rivalry game tonight directly within the confines of the City of New York. The Devils and Rangers got together tonight at Madison Square Garden to renew the Hudson River Rivalry. It was not pretty from the New Jersey view of things.
The Devils, losers of two straight coming into tonight and the Rangers, looking to be the first team in the NHL to 20 victories was not a good formula for this first matchup between these Metropolitan Division opponents. Although many fans would remember that last season the Devils were able to end their early season losing ways by defeating New York in overtime. That game, won by John Moore, was coach John Hynes’ first NHL win.
But there was no such luck tonight. In fact, almost everything went against the Devils from the start.
Sitting for the Devils tonight were Yohann Auvitu and Jacob Josefson (both healthy scratches) and Pavel Zacha (who is still out with the facial laceration – he should be back shortly). Sitting for New York were Adam Clendening and Rick Nash (who is ill).
In a change from the Lou Lamoriello days, the Devils stayed in and practiced in New York City this morning. Under Lou, they would practice in New Jersey and then bus over to Manhattan for the game later that afternoon.
Between the pipes, New Jersey went back to Cory Schneider, who has been having a rough go of it. With this game, he has let in five goals in consecutive games. He made 26 saves on 31 Ranger shots.
The real goaltending news came out of the Rangers camp, however. Coach Alain Vigneault decided to start Antti Raanta for the third straight game. Raanta is coming off of a shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks and has been playing really well. Henrik Lundqvist had been outplayed by his understudy and the Rangers were going to ride their hot goalie as long as they can. He was a perfect 19-for-19 in the shutout win.
The Devils seemingly got on the board early in the first when Adam Henrique had beaten Raanta on a goal mouth scramble. The Devils had a quick 1-0 lead for a few seconds. The situation room in Toronto reviews all goals scored across the National Hockey League. They reviewed this one and decided that Henrique had made “a distinct kicking motion” to put the puck in the net. The replay, to most people (including MSG Network analysts Ken Daneyko and John MacLean), looked more like Henrique was pivoting on his skates and not intentionally kicking the puck into the net. But Toronto disagreed and the goal was waved off.
That should have been the tipoff that this was not the Devils’ night.
The Devils have let in the most goals in the NHL in the calendar month. From the middle of November, they gave up 49 goals coming into tonight’s game. It became an even 50 at 16:43 of the first period when Chris Kreider scored five hole to notch his eighth of the year from Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Klein. It was 1-0 Rangers and would head that way into the first intermission. New Jersey’s coaching staff was thinking of challenging for goalie interference, but decided against it after viewing it on video.
The second and third periods showed why the Rangers are top six in both power play and penalty kill. At 15:56 of the second, Brady Skjei was called for tripping, but the Rangers’ JT Miller took advantage of a broken play when Kyle Palmieri fell down in the neutral zone trying to intercept a Rangers clearing attempt to double up the New York lead. The Devils had lost the faceoff and New York was clearing the zone when Palmieri hit a rut or just lost an edge. Miller just picked up the puck and was off to the races on a 2-on-1. That goal came at 16:07 with an assist to Kevin Hayes. Miller now has four goals in his last four games against the Devils. Cory stopped another Rangers shorthanded attempt with his left pad right after the goal.
It seemed the Devils would get out of the second period only down 2-0. But, with about three seconds remaining in the frame, Skjei scored his first NHL goal from Derek Stepan and Oscar Lindberg. The Devils would go into the break down 3-0 instead.
And things got worse in the third period. First, at 6:04 Brandon Pirri made it 4-0 on the power play while Damon Severson was sitting for hooking. Kreider and Ryan McDonagh had the assists there.
New York had scored five or more goals on an opponent ten times this year. It seemed that the Devils would not make that list until late in the third. At 17:33, after a scrap behind the Rangers net, Klein was given a five minute fighting major while his opponent, Nick Lappin, was given five for fighting and an extra two minutes for roughing. It was questionable, but either way, the Rangers were on the power play.
And Jimmy Vesey made them pay. He notched his tenth of the year at 18:42 from Pirri and Nick Holden. The Rangers had posted five on the Devils.
An interesting incident in the early part of the third period came when there was a delayed call against Ben Lovejoy of the Devils. The Rangers pulled Raanta for the extra skater and nearly put the puck into their own net. They ended up hitting the post as they were passing back to their point man.
Overall on the power play, the Devils were 0-for-5 while the Rangers were 2-for-6.
Next up for the Devils, they get some time off to right some wrongs. They do not play again until Thursday, when they travel to St. Louis to meet the Blues again. Hopefully, they can get themselves back in the win column and gain a measure of revenge against the Blues for their defeat a week prior.