It is no secret that the New Jersey Devils are no longer in the playoff hunt. Their ten game skid back in late February/early March made sure of that. But they were playing the New York Rangers at Prudential Center tonight and you just had to know that the Devils would be up for this one. The Devils were at risk of getting swept by the Rangers in the season series for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
But they were not, getting a 3-2 overtime win over their Hudson River rivals. The two teams last met back on February 25 at Prudential Center and it was a barnburner that New York won in overtime. If this game was even half as exciting as that one, then the fans would be in for a good one.
In some roster movements, Miles Wood was back in after missing the Columbus game on Sunday with an injury. He would go on to play a big part in tonight’s game. The Devils are still without Michael Cammalleri, Jacob Josefson and Devante Smith-Pelly due to injury. Cammalleri and Josefson have skated on their own but have not been cleared yet. Smith-Pelly is not skating yet and the word is that none of the three are close to returning. Blake Pietila and Dalton Prout were New Jersey’s healthy scratches.
Missing the game for the Rangers were Tanner Glass, Steven Kampfer, Kevin Klein, Brandon Pirri and Matt Puempel.
Another injured player for the Rangers is Henrik Lundqvist, who is missing with a hip injury. He has been out for the last five games. Due to this the goaltending matchup saw Antii Raanta go for the Rangers and Cory Schneider get between the pipes for the Devils. Raanta made 25 saves on 28 Devils shots for a .893 save percentage. Schneider made 38 saves on 40 Ranger shots for a .950 save percentage. Both goalies were amazing at times and kept the game in check.
On another note, 18 year-old Shane Daneyko, the son of “Mr. Devil” Ken Daneyko, sang the national anthem prior to the game. MSG+ aired his performance and he did a great job. Congratulations to both Daneykos, as I am sure that Ken is very proud of son Shane right now.
The first period saw no scoring but did see a total of 25 shots. The Rangers peppered Cory with 14 while the Devils scattered 11.
The game really kicked off in the second period. At 14:46, the Rangers’ Brendan Smith was called for tripping Beau Bennett. The Devils went on the power play and the young guys took over. The puck wound around to Pavel Zacha and he sent it down low to Joseph Blandisi. Blandisi then centered it to John Quenneville at the bottom of the near faceoff circle. He tapped it home for his first NHL goal and gave the Devils a 1-0 lead. Congratulations to John Quenneville on his first NHL goal and here’s hoping it is the first of many. That goal came at 15:16. The Devils 1-for-2 on the power play while the Rangers were 1-for-3.
But the Rangers had an answer for that. At 16:53, Oscar Lindberg scored from Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan McDonagh to tie things at one. It was a big period for both teams. Before the second frame was through, the Devils would retake the lead and all hell would break loose.
First the goal. At 18:22, Taylor Hall, who had been shaken up by a big hit after the Quenneville goal but did not leave the bench, took a pass from Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri had grabbed the puck on a nice turnover forced by a forechecking Travis Zajac. Hall received the pass and fired a shot from the same place Quenneville did as he was falling down. The puck went in just under the crossbar, no one really sure if it went in or not (including Hall), but the official signaled the goal and the Devils had taken a 2-1 lead.
After that goal, at 19:43, Wood took a hit from Nick Holden along the stanchion in the glass near the corner of the bench. He did not have the puck and immediately went for Holden when he got up. Three fights broke out on the ice in addition to Wood-Holden: Blake Coleman took on Jimmy Vesey and the Devils’ Nick Lappin also got into a scrap.
When the dust settled, Wood was given a fighting major, a ten minute misconduct and the extra two minute instigator penalty. That would be key, as the Rangers would convert on the power play they got from it. Also, Wood would be missing the first 17 minutes of the third period for the Devils. It showed when the Devils did not have his energy and speed on the ice, spending a good deal of the period in the Rangers’ zone.
The game tying goal came off the stick of Rick Nash off assists from Kevin Hayes and Brady Skjei at 1:21 of the third period. This came just moments after Derek Stepan hit the post at the start of the third. The game was now tied at two and the Rangers seemed to be in control. The ice was tilted for much of the third and Mats Zuccarello hit the crossbar off of a faceoff late in the third where the puck was on end and he fired it, getting the iron.
But this game was destined for overtime. And what an overtime period it was! The game winner came at 4:05 of the three-on-three session when, seconds after Cory Schneider made a nice poke check on a Rangers shooter, Quenneville grabbed the puck and rushed up ice with Joseph Blandisi. The two criss-crossed through the neutral zone and, when Quenneville hit the Rangers’ blue line, he looked up and fed Blandisi, who was skating through the slot. Blandisi took the pass and moved to his backhand, beating Raanta to give the Devils a thrilling 3-2 win in overtime.
This goal came minutes after Hall had made a beautiful inside out move through the legs of the Rangers defender, only to be stopped on a save by Raanta.
So the Devils showed a lot tonight against their rivals. They are now a young team that has a lot of potential. They are still on pace to lose the most games a Devils team has lost since the 1988-89 season, but the future looked very bright tonight. The young guys came through when they were needed and they are starting to blossom.
Next up for the Devils is the equally young Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. The Devils will travel up to Air Canada Centre to meet a team that is on the verge of possibly making the playoffs. Fans in Toronto will be very excited, but little can beat tonight’s game. Hopefully the Devils do not have a let down game following one that they were so emotionally invested in.