Be it in the playoffs, the regular season or even the preseason, the objective remains the same for New Jersey: beat the New York Rangers. And although they did not accomplish that tonight, they did play a solid game, only falling in overtime by a score of 4-3.
Some news to open things as Cory Schneider is on track to be able to play a week or two into the regular season. He will be making the trip to Europe with the team, but will not play in either the preseason game against SC Bern in Switzerland or the regular season opener in Sweden against the Edmonton Oilers.
The starting goaltending matchup tonight was an all-Swedish affair with Eddie Lack going for the Devils and Henrik Lundqvist starting for the Rangers. Lack would play the whole game for New Jersey, being backed up by Mackenzie Blackwood. He made 35 saves on 39 New York shots. Lundqvist played the first two periods of the game, making 14 stops on 15 shots against. Marek Mazanec relieved him in the third and made nine saves on 11 shots. The Devils had 26 total shots in the game.
The game saw two fights, both involving Eric Gryba of the Devils. In the first period, he fought Matt Beleskey at the 15:44 mark. Beleskey injured his shoulder in the scrap and would not return to the game. In the third period, Gryba came to the aid of Brett Seney, who he felt had taken a dirty hit from a Ranger. Gryba ended up dropping the gloves with Cody McLeod of the Rangers. That fight occurred at the 7:33 mark of the period.
After a somewhat sloppy and sluggish first period, things began to pick up in the second. The Rangers broke the scoreless tie when Steven Fogarty scored from McLeod and Neal Pionk at 3:11 of the second frame.
But it only took the Devils 1:06 to get that one back. Taylor Hall forced a turnover deep in the New York zone and passed to Kyle Palmieri at the far faceoff dot. Palmieri fired a one-timer by Lundqvist to even the score at one. It was a great snipe by Palmieri and nice work on the forecheck by Hall leading to a game-tying goal.
However, before the period was through, the Rangers would retake the lead when Timothy Gettinger scored at the 9:09 mark to make it 2-1 going into the final frame. Gettinger had scored on his own rebound that handcuffed Lack. He got an assist from Pionk. Pionk would finish the night with two assists for New York.
The third period saw the Rangers extend their lead further just 31 second in. It came on the power play when Chris Kreider finished a 2-on-1 with Mika Zibanejad. Tony DeAngelo had the secondary assist. That goal came while John Quenneville was in the box for tripping, an infraction that occurred 19:13 into the second period.
The Devils ended the night 0-for-3 on the power play while the Rangers were 1-for-2.
The Devils were down 3-1, but not out. From here, it really became the Palmieri-Hischier-Hall show. This began at the 6:11 mark of the third when Sami Vatanen found Palmieri with a stretch pass at the Rangers’ blue line. Palmieri spun around and dropped a nice feed to Nico Hischier at the top of the far faceoff circle. He fired one by Mazanec’s stick side to make it 3-2.
The Devils would complete the comeback at the 9:08 mark when Hall found twine to tie it at three. It began when Hischier gave to Palmieri to break out of the Devils zone from just inside their blue line. At this point, Hall was just coming off the bench and used his speed to catch up to the play just inside the Rangers’ blue line. He took a pass from Palmieri and scored from almost the exact same spot Hischier did. That would tie up the game and Hall finished the night with two points (a goal and an assist), Hischier with two (a goal and an assist) and Palmieri with three (a goal and two assists). Hall would be named the game’s third star while Palmieri was the second.
When time ran out on regulation, that led us to another Devils-Rangers preseason OT game. And it was full of excitement. Hall broke in a few times using his speed to go in alone against Mazanec, only for the Rangers’ goalie to stop him. Hischier hit the post on a chance late in overtime.
But, in the end, it was a nice offensive play by the Rangers’ netminder that ended it. Mazanec caught the Devils in a change and passed the puck up to Kevin Hayes, who waited patiently in front of the Devils’ net until he found Vinni Lettieri. Lettieri went upstairs to seemingly beat Lack but the goal was initially waved off on the ice. The officials conferred and replays showed that it did go just under the crossbar, beating Lack cleanly. The call on the ice was overturned, it was a good goal and the Rangers had the 4-3 win. That one came at the 3:53 mark of the overtime period.
Overall, the Devils played a good game, really pressuring the Rangers late in the game and getting some good chances out of it. Vatanen led all skaters in ice time with 25:38 – including 2:31 of power play time and 1:01 of penalty killing. Hischier led the forwards with 19:35 – with 3:23 of power play and 1:06 penalty kill. Shots on goal were led by Hall, Brian Boyle, Jesper Bratt, Vatanen and Ty Smith who each had three apiece. Quenneville led in hits with four while Gryba and Vatanen each registered two blocks.
Next up, New Jersey travels to Winnipeg on Thursday to take on the Jets. Although this game will not be televised in the New York City market, I will try to get a post up with details about the game as best I can.