Devils Move to NHL .500 With Win Over Rangers

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!

Coleman Scores Two, DeAngelo Scores Three; Devils Fall to Rangers

The Devils finished off their New York tour facing the Rangers at Madison Square Garden tonight, losing 6-3 after falling to the Islanders in overtime on Tuesday.

We’ll get right to the nitty gritty of this one since it was not pretty from the perspective of the Devils.

Jesper Bratt and Jack Hughes remain out with injuries, although according to Erika Wachter of MSG Network, interim head coach Alain Nasreddine said that they are progressing “well” and could return soon. Connor Carrick was again the healthy scratch as the Devils iced the same lineup for the third game in a row.

The goaltending matchup saw Mackenzie Blackwood (minus the four teeth he lost in the Islander game on Tuesday) start for the Devils, making 20 saves on 25 shots for an .800 save percentage. He was pulled after the fifth Ranger goal in favor of Louis Domingue. Domingue, making his return from injury, made 11 stops on a dozen New York shots for a .917 save percentage. The Rangers ended the game with 37 shots.

For the Rangers, they went with rookie Russian goalie Igor Shesterkin. He was actually a teammate of Nikita Gusev’s at SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL where they won a Gagarin Cup championship together in 2017. He made his first NHL start and got his first NHL win versus the Avalanche earlier in the week for them. Tonight, he made a whopping 46 saves on 49 Devil shots against for a .939 save percentage.

This game was a wild one to begin with. It began 5:42 into the first when Artemi Panarin put New York ahead 1-0. It was a tic-tac-toe passing play where Tony DeAngelo fed Panarin from behind the net and Panarin took a one-timer from the far faceoff dot. He beat Blackwood to give the Rangers the early lead. Adam Fox had the other assist. A lot was to come for DeAngelo tonight as the New Jersey-native had one to remember.

At the 8:06 mark of the first, Kevin Rooney tied things up for the Devils. It came shorthanded while PK Subban was off for interference. Following a offensive zone start, Pavel Zacha pounced on the puck and threw it on net. Rooney crashed in and put the rebound through Shesterkin’s five-hole to end his 33-game scoreless streak and notch his first of the year. It was also the Devils’ fourth shorty of the season.

DeAngelo got that one right back 1:41 later when he snuck in to the top of the slot and took a pass from Mika Zibanejad. He kind of shot it off of the toe of his stick, as Ken Daneyko of MSG Network observed. That led it to kind of flutter in like a knuckleball on Blackwood. It beat him to give the Rangers back the lead at 2-1.

At the 12:16 mark, Chris Kreider scored on the power play to advance the Ranger lead to 3-1. John Hayden was off for interfering with Kaapo Kakko at 11:32 and New York was on the man advantage. This was a weird one as DeAngelo fired a slapper all the way down the rink. It bounced off of the end boards, and Kreider was there to negate the icing. He had snuck behind the Devils’ defense and was now all alone with the puck. He then put it behind Blackwood for his 300th career NHL point. Zibanejad had the secondary assist.

But the Devils got back on the board before the first intermission at 18:10 when Damon Severson took a pass at the Ranger blue line. He then walked the line and got into a position to shoot, firing it in on Shesterkin. Blake Coleman tipped it by him and in to make it 3-2 Rangers. The Devils had come back to cut the lead to one.

It would seem that the Rangers got that one back when Pavel Buchnevich scored on a breakaway with 1:13 left in the first. There was no signal from the referee right away and the red light did not immediately come on. The officials got together and had a look and the replay showed that the puck hit the crossbar, bounced down and out, but never did cross the goal line. The goal was waved off in the first of two big breaks the Devils would receive on the evening.

The second period began with the other big break for New Jersey. 8:56 into the second frame, Severson ripped a shot that Coleman drove to the net on. It was an innocent looking play as Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba pushed Coleman and the net was dislodged. However, the officials once again got together and looked at a replay from the situation room in Toronto. The call on the ice was no goal, but replay showed that Trouba pushed Coleman and, in a continuous motion, the puck crossed the line as the net was coming off the moorings. The goal counted and Coleman had his second of the night while the Devils had miraculously tied things up.

Tony DeAngelo, however, had other ideas.

At the 12:08 mark of the second, he scored his second goal of the game by taking a pass from Marc Staal at the Devils’ blue line and wristing a shot through traffic to make it 4-3. It was his second goal and fourth point, making him the first Ranger defenseman to have a four-point night against the Devils since James Patrick in 1986 according to MSG Network.

He struck again at 15:02 of the second to complete the hat trick and score his fifth point of the night – factoring into all five Ranger goals. It came on the power play (Nico Hischier was off for high-sticking Fox) when the Rangers just used good puck movement to work it around the perimeter to DeAngelo in the slot. He shot through a screen again to make it 5-3 Rangers.

He became the fist Rangers defenseman to record a hatty since Reijo Ruotsalainen on March 17, 1982 against the Flyers. That was during the 1981-82 season so the Devils were still in Colorado, that is how long ago this happened!

It was after this goal that Blackwood was pulled in favor of Domingue.

But Domingue did not fare much better. In the third period, at the 12:56 mark, Jesper Fast scored on a 2-on-1, taking a pass from Ryan Strome and burying it behind Domingue to make it 6-3 Rangers. Panarin had the other assist. New York had doubled the Devils up and that was how it ended.

On special teams, the Devils were 0-for-2 with six shots (in addition, they also had five shorthanded shots) while the Rangers went 2-for-5 with seven total shots (five on Blackwood and two on Domingue).

The Devils doubled up the Rangers in the third period on shots (18 to nine), but had nothing to show for it.

The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Nico peronally winning 68-percent of his. They edged the Rangers in hits 20-19, had more blocked shots at 19-17 and had less turnovers at nine to the Rangers’ 13.

Individually, Sami Vatanen led in ice time with 24:24 (2:10 on the power play and 2:42 shorthanded included) and Kyle Palmieri led the forwards with 18:30 (including 3:31 killing penalties).

Miles Wood and Subban led in shots on goal with six each, Coleman led in hits with five, Severson led in blocks with three and Palmieri led in takeaways with two.

Next up, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire as the Devils head down to Washington to take on the juggernaut Capitals. That game is a 7 PM faceoff and we will have coverage for you right here on Saturday.