Preseason: Devils Dealt First Exhibition Loss

The Devils traveled across the Hudson River to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers in the penultimate preseason game of 2021.

This did not go well from a results standpoint as the Rangers exacted revenge for the blowout they suffered in Newark last week. New York won 6-2.

In a roster move, Joseph Gambardella was assigned to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League earlier today as the Devils’ roster continues to be cut down.

In goal for New Jersey, Jonathan Bernier played the who 60 minutes. He made 26 saves on 32 shots against for an .813 save percentage. He got two of the Rangers’ three power play shots and 24-of-29 at even strength. Nico Daws backed him up.

For the Rangers, Igor Shesterkin made 32 saves on 34 shots against for a .941 save percentage including turning aside the Devils’ two shorthanded shots, all four of their power play shots and 26-of-28 shots at even strength.

The Devils were 0-for-2 on the power play while the Rangers were 1-for-3.

The Rangers got on the board at the 3:23 mark of the first period when Mika Zibanejad scored. K’Andre Miller got it from the point to the far half wall to Adam Fox. Fox passed against the grain to Zibanejad at the doorstep and he shoveled it in past Bernier to make it 1-0 New York.

Following that, a play that would go on to define the game. New York’s Ryan Reaves tangled up with the Devils’ PK Subban heading into the corner. Their knees locked together and Reaves kind of fell backwards on it in an ugly fall. He left with an apparent knee injury and Subban became a target all night – particularly for Chris Kreider. Kreider would engage Subban early in the second period, but Subban would not fight. Early in the third, Subban would answer the bell against Kreider in a short scrap.

It did not seem to be an intentional slew foot and, in fact, former Devil-turned-Ranger Kevin Rooney would downplay the incident in an interview in the second intermission on the MSG broadcast. However, Subban would hear it from the fans by the end of the game.

The Rangers took the 1-0 lead into the second period. It was at the 3:58 mark when Kaapo Kakko would make it 2-0 unassisted. Kakko grabbed a loose puck when Michael McLeod mishandled it at the New York blue line. Kakko won a footrace with Subban to the Devils’ zone and scored on a partial breakaway.

At the 5:39 mark of the second, Zibanejad notched his second of the game to make it 3-0. The Devils were down two men with the Rangers on a 5-on-3 power play. Ryan Strome got the puck up to Fox at the point. Fox then found Zibanejad with a slick pass at the side of the Devils’ net. It was a layup for Zibanejad. It was almost similar to the first New York goal.

The Devils finally broke the ice at the 9:57 mark of the second when Pavel Zacha dug the puck out of the far corner and passed to Jesper Bratt at the far side of the Rangers’ net. Bratt passed to Andreas Johnsson at the other side the goal and Johnsson tapped the puck in to make it 3-1.

But the Rangers would have a response for the Johnsson goal when Sammy Blais scored unassisted at 14:28. Blais intercepted the puck and made a nice move around the Devils’ defender, crashing the net and putting it in on the far side. That made it 4-1 New York.

And they were not done. Twenty seconds after the Blais goal, Barclay Goodrow made it 5-1. Blais took a shot from the point that was redirected off of a Devils skate to Goodrow, who scored. Jacob Trouba had the secondary assist.

The scoring did not let up in the third period. At the 10:48 mark, the Devils won a board battle to gain possession of the puck. It was thrown into the slot where Mark Jankowski got it and shot. The rebound came out to a trailing Marian Studenic, who was cruising through the top of the slot. He shot and put his own rebound home to make it 5-2.

The capper came from the Rangers less than one minute later. Ryan Strome went hard on the forecheck at the 11:05 mark of the third. He forced McLeod to turn the puck over behind the Devils’ net. Strome then centered it to Artemi Panarin, who did not miss to give us our final of 6-2.

The Devils won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The two teams combined for 55 penalty minutes (31 for the Rangers, 23 for the Devils). The Rangers outhit the Devils 36 to 31 in what was a physical game. The Devils had 13 blocked shots to the Rangers’ eight and New Jersey had one more giveaway than their opponents at nine to eight.

Subban led the Devils in penalty minutes with 17 while Studenic led in shots on goal with five. Former Ranger Mason Geertsen victimized his old team six times to lead in hits. Ryan Graves led in blocks with four. Bratt led in giveaways with two while Zacha led in takeaways for the Devils with four.

McLeod once again led the Devils centers in faceoff percentage with a 67-percent winning clip.

Time on ice was led by Jonas Siegenthaler with 23:39 total ice. Chase De Leo led the forwards with 17:38 of total time on ice. Zacha led in power play time with 2:01 total time.

Next up, the Devils will play the Islanders at home tomorrow in their final game of the 2021 preseason. This will likely be a dress rehearsal for the regular season, which gets underway a week from today. There is a good chance that we see most of the regulars in the lineup.

Until then!

Slovakia Defeats Belarus, Advances to Olympics

The Slovaks will come out of Group D to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games after a 2-1 victory over Belarus today in Bratislava.

Slovakia needed just one point to get to Beijing while the Belarusians needed a win in regulation to advance.

Belarus got into some penalty trouble early, setting the tone for the game. Just 1:50 into the contest, Vladislav Kolyachonok was called for hooking, putting the Slovaks on the power play early.

Then, at the 4:05 mark of the first period, Sergei Sapego was called for boarding and received a game misconduct to go along with it, meaning he was lost for the game for Belarus.

Slovakia took advantage on the power play from the boarding call, being served by Alexei Protas. Peter Cehlarik scored from Marek Hrivik to make it 1-0 Slovakia.

From there, a penalty-filled last of the first gave way to the second frame.

And the Belarusians tied it just 1:07 into the new period. Yegor Sharangovich scored unassisted to tie things up at one.

And then it was back to the penalties, as Belarus’ Geoff Platt took a tripping call at 1:20 and Belarus’ Nikita Komarov took a cross-checking minor at 2:04. Then it was the Slovaks’ turn as Tomas Jurco took a cross-checking call on the same paly as Komarov’s cross-check, Christian Jaros was called for a trip at 3:15 and Marko Dano was called for slashing at 11:22. Belarus player Andrei Stas finished off the flurry of penalties at 12:03 when he was called for slashing.

The third period was a lot less hectic but did see Slovakia break the 1-1 tie.

Marian Studenic was called for a trip 2:42 into the new period, but the Slovaks killed that off.

The game winner came off of an unusual, but logical strategy. Belarus pulled goaltender Danny Taylor with 3:20 to go in regulation. At first, this seems weird to do in a 1-1 game, but once you understand that Belarus needed to win in regulation, it made sense. They needed to get the extra attacker on to win the game before time ran out and we headed to overtime or a shootout, a win in either would do Belarus no good.

But with that cage empty, Slovakia had their chance. Libor Hudacek potted one into the empty net to give Slovakia the 2-1 lead. Peter Ceresnak had the lone assist on the goal.

Belarus would continue to keep pulling Taylor as tien ran down, but to no avail. When Stas took a charging penalty with less than a minute to go, that was fatal.

Slovakia won the game and will advance to the Olympics.

Taylor faced a total of 28 shots and was equal to 27 of them, the second goal going into the empty net and not being charged to him. For Slovakia, Branislav Konrad saw 11 shots and got ten of them.

As for Devils in the game, Jaros had the two penalty minutes from the minoir and two total shots on goal. Marian Studenic had two shots on net. For Belarus, Sharangoich had the goal for a point off of two shots on goal.

So that does it on the tournament, Slovakia finishes in first with two wins, six points and a plus-five goal differential. Belarus finishes in second with one win, good for three points, and a plus-two goal differential. Austria, by virtue of a 4-1 victory over Poland, finishes third with one win, three points and a minus-one goal differential. Poland comes in last with one win, three points and a minus-six goal differential.