Well, lookie here.
The Devils defeated the Rangers 6-4 tonight at Madison Square Garden and, not to alarm anyone, but they now stand at NHL .500 with a 28-28-12 record.
This was the final meeting between these rivals in 2019-20. They finished up splitting the season series at two wins each. It was also the second meeting ever between Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, the top two picks in last year’s Draft. This was Hughes’ first game at the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”
The Rangers came in pretty hot, just coming off of Mika Zibanejad’s five-goal game against the Washington Capitals. But the Devils have points in 16 of their last 20 games after tonight and that is not an accident. They are starting to play better and the results are coming.
In one roster move, the Devils recalled Janne Kuokkanen from Binghamton. He did not play tonight so we will see when we get to watch him in action. Everything else remained the same as the last few games.
In goal, Mackenzie Blackwood got his start against the Rangers, trying to stymie their playoff hopes. He made 31 saves on 35 New York shots for an .886 save percentage in getting the W. Starting for the Blueshirts was Igor Shesterkin who stopped 18 of the 23 shots he faced for a .783 save percentage on the night. Henrik Lundqvist came on in relief in the third period a turned aside a five shots he saw.
The Rangers were wrapping up a pretty successful homestand for themselves, looking for a victory over one of their biggest rivals.
And it looked like it was going to go that way too. Filip Chytil scored following the Devils applying pressure in their end. At 5:34 of the first period, Julien Gauthier tried a wraparound but instead centered to Chytil in the slot who scored. That gave New York the quick 1-0 lead. Adam Fox got credited with the secondary assist.
But the Devils responded very quickly. At the 6:22 mark of the first, 48 seconds after the Chytil goal, Kyle Palmieri notched his first of two on the night when the Devils moved the puck around the horn, Damon Severson getting it to Dakota Mermis who passed to Palmieri, who was down below the goal line. He shot from the weird angle and scored to tie the game at one.
But less than a minute after that goal, Zibanejad gave the Rangers back the lead. The Devils were unable to clear their zone and Zibanejad and Fox played give and go, with Zibanejad ripping a one-timer by Mackenzie Blackwood to make it 2-1. Pavel Buchnevich had the secondary assist.
The Devils nearly tied it in the first period when Kevin Rooney hit the post on a breakaway following Fox coughing the puck up at the Rangers’ blue line.
The second period saw the Devils explode into the lead. It began when Palmieri got his second of the night just 44 seconds into the new frame. The puck got back to Mermis at the point. He fired on net and Miles Wood got a stick on it, but finally that rebound came back to Palmieri, who shot a rolling, on-it’s-edge puck over Shesterkin’s left pad to tie the game at two.
That was just the beginning. At the 1:36 mark, Fredrik Claesson, the former Ranger, tallied his first goal as a New Jersey Devil when Nikita Gusev came up the right-wing boards, and found a trailing Claesson, who was just joining the play. He beat Shesterkin to give the Devils their first lead on the evening at 2-1.
The next Devils’ goal came on the power play when Fox was caught for a trip at 14:46 of the second. On the man advantage, with 16:19 ticked off the clock, Nico Hischier faked a shot at the near faceoff circle and passed to Travis Zajac at the side of the net. He put it in to tie Zach Parise for fourth place on the all-time Devils goal-scoring list. PK Subban had the secondary assist. The Devils now led 4-2.
On special teams, the Devils finished 1-for-1 on the power play, scoring on their only chance and shot on the power play. They also had one shorthanded shot. The Rangers were 0-for-3 with three power play shots.
John Hayden made it 5-2 before the second frame was over. It happened at the 16:44 mark when Hayden created a turnover on the forecheck. It got to Severson at the point and he shot. Hayden had gone to the front of the net and tipped Severson’s shot by Shesterkin to add to the Devils’ lead.
In the third, Lundqvist came in to relieve Shesterkin and immediately stopped Jack Hughes on a breakaway. Jesper Bratt would also get a chance, making a nice move midway though the period on a Rangers defender only to hit the crossbar.
The Rangers would get back into the game at the 13:42 mark of the third when Greg McKegg scored following a missed chance on the rush by New York. The Rangers got the puck back to Brendan Smith at the point. He shot a half-slapper that redirected in off McKegg to make it 5-3 Devils. Buchnevich had the secondary assist.
From there, with a little over three minutes to go, Rangers coach David Quinn decided to pull Lundqvist. After an icing where he had to come back into the net, he finally got back to the bench and the Devils capitalized on a mistake to score an empty netter.
Fox fanned on a pass at his own blue line and Zajac gathered the puck, scoring into the vacated goalmouth. The goal came unassisted and put Zajac solely in fourth place on the Devils’ all-time goal-scoring list. Congratulations to him on this great achievement. The goal also gve the Devils a 6-3 lead and seemingly iced the game for New Jersey.
However, nothing could be taken for granted in a game like this. With 43 seconds to go in regulation, Tony DeAngelo tried to make a pass and, instead, banked the puck past Blackwood off of Connor Carrick’s right skate. McKegg and Brett Howden had the assists which made it 6-4 in favor of the Devils.
Time finally ran out and the Devils had a win over their bitter rivals at that same 6-4 score. They had put a little bit of a monkey wrench in the Rangers’ playoff hopes by taking the two points for themselves.
The Devils were outshot 35 to 29, outhit 28-24, out shot blocked 22-16 and had less turnovers at 17 to the Rangers’ 14.
The Devils won 42-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Michael McLeod winning the most amongst Devils’ centers at a personal 80-percent (on limited minutes).
Subban led the team in time on ice with 26:23 of ice time logged (1:33 on the power play – the only Devils’ defenseman with any PP time and 3:31 on the penalty kill). Pavel Zacha led the forwards with 18:00 of total ice time (1:04 on the power play and 2:36 on the PK included).
Statistically, four Devils had a multi-point night. Zajac notched two goals, as did Palmieri. Severson and Mermis each had a pair of assists. Shots on goal was led by Rooney with four, hits by Mirco Mueller with four, blocked shots by Claesson with three and takeaways by Severson with two.
Next up, it’s another challenge for the Devils as the Pittsburgh Penguins come into Prudential Center on Tuesday. That game starts at 7 PM and we will have coverage for you right here. Until then, enjoy the rest of the weekend!