The Devils finally got in the win column for the 2015-16 season by defeating their archrivals at Madison Square Garden. It was John Hynes’ first NHL coaching victory and the Devils’ first overtime victory in three-on-three play.
Things looked bleak for New Jersey early on when the team came out flat. The Rangers capitalized on their lackluster play when Derek Stepan put New York ahead at 3:12 of the first. Sensing that the team was not totally up for this rivalry game, Kyle Palmieri, after having some words with the Rangers’ Kevin Klein, dropped the mitts with him in an attempt to get the Devils fired up.
It worked. In an interview with MSG’s Deb Placey during the first intermission, John Moore said that the team was proud of Palmieri’s efforts against the much-larger Klein. When the two teams came out for the second, it only took Adam Henrique 1:52 to wrist one past Henrik Lundqvist (assists to Mike Cammalleri and Damon Severson). Henrique was playing center for the game after being moved from left wing (his natural position) last game. MSG analyst Ken Daneyko mentioned that he likes him better on the wing, but conceded that Henrique has been showing that he can be an effective center for the team.
The Devils looked like they might be able to break through when New York’s Jarret Stoll was called for tripping at 19:54 of the second. This would give the Devils 1:55 or so of power play time on a fresh sheet of ice in the third. Things looked even better when Klein drew a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass 19 seconds into the third. The Devils, however, were not able to convert on the 5-on-3 and would, in fact, get into penalty trouble themselves late in the period. Jordin Tootoo took a high-sticking penalty at 10:58 of the period and the Devils’ penalty killers had little time to catch their breath after taking care of that when Lee Stempniak was whistled for interference at 13:38. Both the Devils and Rangers PK units were perfect on the afternoon.
The game was a tight defensive battle all the way and neither team was giving an inch of ice. It was also an illustration of what coach Hynes was talking about when he said that the game was now one of puck possession.
When the final buzzer sounded on the third period, the Devils had earned their second point in two games and were headed for three-on-three again and they would have a little help along the way. The Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh looked to have finished things early in the extra session when he beat Cory Schneider (who was again solid in this game) only to see defenseman Andy Greene clear the puck from the crease, sweeping it clear of the goal line just in the nick of time.
The Devils victory came when the Rangers dinged a shot off the post and Greene recovered, sending the puck up to a breaking Henrique, who quickly settled it and passed to Stempniak, who fired a one timer behind Lundqvist and into the net for the Devils’ first victory.
Overtime was again exciting three-on-three and more satisfying this time with a Devils victory. Andy Greene was the Devils’ star in the extra session. The captain was able to not only to keep the puck out of the Devils’ cage, but also helped spring Henrique to set up the game winner.
Although Stempniak was named the game’s first star and the goaltenders were the other two (Schneider earned second star while Lundqvist was the third), Greene and Henrique could have easily been on there. Both played well and were instrumental in the Devils’ win.
All-in-all, though, it was a good win for a team that needed one. For John Hynes to get his first NHL win in his first taste of the “Hudson River Rivalry” has to be gratifying for him and the team. Now that the first win is out of the way and all of the early season jitters are gone, it is time for the Devils to build on this. The Devils now get off the winless list, as only Columbus and Anaheim have yet to taste victory in 2015-16. Hopefully, they can continue the upward trend as the Arizona Coyotes come to Prudential Center on Tuesday.