Preseason: Devils Edge Rangers, 4-3

The Devils rolled into Manhattan for their third preseason game of 2019 to take on the Rangers. While it might still only be preseason, the rivalry is still strong and any Devils fan worth their salt would want to see the Devils come out on top.

One of the subtexts now, of course, is Kaapo Kakko versus Jack Hughes. Unfortunately, Hughes was out of the lineup for the Devils tonight as management and the coaching staff had to rotate other guys in to get a look at.

In another move, this time on the ice, Sami Vatanen was moved back to his natural right side after playing the left side versus Boston on Monday when he was paired with PK Subban. Subban, too, did not play tonight.

The Devils kicked things off scoring in the first minute and the final minute of the first period. The early goal came just 37 seconds in and was all Nico Hischier. Nico banked the puck off the far half wall to Vatanen at the point. Vatanen went D-to-D with Will Butcher who shot. Nico then tipped the puck by Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev to make it 1-0 Devils.

The goal in the final minute (with four seconds remaining on the clock) was a real beauty that you owe it to yourself to look up on the NHL website. It came from Mikhail Maltsev unassisted. Maltsev was in hard on the forecheck, intercepting the puck and getting tripped up for his troubles. He collected the puck from his knees, used his strength to get to his feet and scored around Georgiev. That gave the Devils a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

In between those goals were a few scraps. The first came at the 6:36 mark and saw Brandon Baddock of the Devils take on Michael Haley. Haley had gone after Connor Carrick and Baddock stood up for his teammate by going toe-to-toe with Haley.

The second fight came after Nick Jones of the Rangers went low on John Hayden on a hit along the boards. Kevin Rooney stepped up to take him on.

Another key of the first period was the Rangers’ power play. Really, all night, they peppered Devils goaltending (and the posts) with shots. They wound up 1-for-4 on the man advantage with 12 shots. The Devils were 0-for-1 with four shots.

The Rangers’ big free agent signing, Artemi Panarin got them on the board 7:33 into the second on the power play. New York won the faceoff in the Devils’ zone, worked the puck around the perimeter, getting it to Panarin who just blasted a shot by Cory Schneider. Jacob Trouba and Kakko had the assists. That cut the Devils’ lead to 2-1.

Panarin would leave the game later on with a mild groin strain. He did not return.

But the Devils would get that one back when their own Russian import scored on a 2-on-1 with Baddock. Baddock skated around Brady Skjei, who made a cardinal mistake as a defenseman by leaving his feet trying to play the 2-on-1. Baddock calmly passed around him, getting it to Nikita Gusev, who tipped the puck by Georgiev to make it 3-1 Devils. Vatanen had the secondary assist.

Following that goal, which came at roughly the midway point of the game, the Rangers pulled Georgiev in favor of Igor Shesterkin to give him some minutes.

Haley would get the Rangers within one again when he scored at 12:36 of the second. The goal came after miscommunication between Cory and the defense left the goalie behind the goal cage on a hard around. Haley grabbed the loose puck and calmly put it into the open net. Greg McKegg had the lone assist for that goal. It was now 3-2.

The Devils would get their game winner just 3:55 into the third period. Brett Seney scored on a goal mouth scramble as the Devils drove hard to the net. That made it 4-2.

The Rangers would get one more when Boo Nieves threw the puck in front. Lias Andersson collected the puck with his skate and fired it past Evan Cormier (who had come in for the Devils to play the third). Vitali Kravtsov had the other assist on that goal, which gave us our final of 4-3.

The Rangers would pull Shesterkin with about 2:14 to play, but to no avail as the Devils were able to escape from New York with a 4-3 victory.

The Rangers threw a total of 42 shots at New Jersey goaltending. Schneider stopped 27 of the 29 he saw while Cormier was 12-for-13. The Devils managed 24 shots on Ranger goaltending.

The Devils did their damage in the faceoff circle, winning 52-percent of the draws. They were outhit 27-25, but had more blocked shots at 15 to the Rangers’ nine. The giveaways were about even, with the Rangers having 15 to the Devils’ 14.

Individually, Will Butcher led all Devils in ice time with 22:39 while Nico Hischier led the forwards with 19:59. Gusev, Butcher and Vatanen were all a plus-3 to lead that category. Hischier led in shots with three while Hayden led in hits with five. Hayden also led in hits with four. Two defensemen led in takeaways with two, Damon Severson and Vatanen.

Next up for the Devils, it’s these same New York Rangers, this time at Prudential Center on Friday. We will see you then.