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!

Preseason: Devils Blow Past Rangers, 7-1

The Devils returned to the Prudential Center for the first time this season for their second preseason game of 2021-22. They came away with a 7-1 blowout win over their rivals, the New York Rangers.

We will begin in the nets where Jonathan Bernier got the nod to start in what was a gametime decision by coach Lindy Ruff. Nico Daws was backing him up and it was thought that he might see some game action, but Bernier ended up going the distance. He made 24 saves on the Rangers’ 25 shots against. He turned aside three of the Rangers’ four power play shots and both of their shorthanded attempts. He was 19-for-19 at even strength and had a .960 save percentage.

New York started Igor Shesterkin for the first half of the game. He was equal to 16 of the 20 Devils shots he saw for an .800 percentage. He did not see a shorthanded shot from the Devils, got two of the three power play shots he saw and was 14-for-17 at even strength. Adam Huska, a former UCONN Husky, was equal to 11 of the 14 total shots he saw, including one of two power play shots and 10-of-12 even strength shots. The Devils did not register a shorthanded shot on him. He finished with a .786 save percentage. The Devils totaled 34 shots on goal on the two New York goalies.

Dougie Hamilton made his Devils debut tonight, playing just as well as advertised. He wore an “A” on his jersey for the game.

The Devils scored early and often. PK Subban got the festivities off right when he scored 4:29 into the first period. Michael McLeod dug the puck out of the near corner and got it to Subban at the near point. Subban let loose a bomb that looked like it may have been tipped in front by Chase DeLeo, who was a screen in front with Tyce Thompson. It actually went in off of Rangers’ defenseman K’Andre Miller’s leg, but DeLeo did notch the secondary assist.

About two minutes later, at the 6:34 mark, Subban loaded Alexander Holtz up for a one-timer at the far faceoff circle. The shot was blocked but it bounced right to the stick of Janne Kuokkanen who was cutting into the high slot. Kuokkanen put the rebound home to make it 2-0 Devils. This goal came on the power play.

Thompson made it 3-0 at the 12:50 mark of the first when he grabbed a loose puck behind the Rangers’ net and wound it around the boards to Hamilton at the near point. Hamilton put the shot on net and Thompson, who had gone to the front to provide a screen, dove to put the rebound into the net.

Before the frame was out, Mika Zibanejad would get the Rangers on the board when he scored at the 16:41 mark on the power play. It came extremely fast into the man advantage for New York. Barclay Goodrow moved the puck from the far half wall to Nils Lundkvist at the point. He had a look and moved it to Zibanejad at the near half wall. He blasted a one-timer by Bernier to get the Rangers on the board before the first frame was expired.

But that was all they would get. Bernier shut the door on them from there on out.

In the second period, newly acquired Devil Tomas Tatar made it 4-1 when on a delayed penalty against the Rangers, he pinched up the far boards and cut up the wall towards the circle. He shot and beat Shesterkin off assists from Colton White (primary) and Pavel Zacha (secondary).

That was basically it for Shesterkin as he finished his night and Huska came in.

In the third, the Devils came alive. It started at the 7:26 mark when Zacha scored on the power play. It was tic-tac-toe from Tatar to Hamilton to Zacha at the far circle. Zacha snapped off a shot to make it 5-1 Devils. The Devils ended the game 2-for-4 on the power play while the Rangers were 1-for-5 with their only goal coming on the man advantage.

After this goal was the moment that the game (a preseason game!) will be remembered for. With Lauri Pajuniemi right at the doorstep, Bernier dove across his crease, left to right, and made a spectacular glove safe at point blank range. That helped keep it 5-1 and was certainly a highlight reel save.

The Devils would score their last two right in succession. At the 16:34 mark of the third, Jimmy Vesey scored against his former club unassisted when he grabbed a turnover by the Rangers in the neutral zone. HE flew in up the right-wing boards and had a partial 2-on-1. Instead, he elected to shoot and snapped a shot by Huska to make it 6-1.

Less than one minute later, Dawson Mercer grabbed a loose puck off of a turnover just inside the Devils’ blue line and was off on a breakaway. He made a nifty move to beat Huska and score making it 7-1, our final. That goal was also unassisted.

Team stat-wise, the Devils won 53-percent of the game’s faceoffs, were outhit 23-14, had less blocks at six to the Rangers’ nine, but had two less turnovers at 14 to New York’s 16.

Individually, Tatar, Hamilton and Subabn each had two points. Tatar and Subban with a goal and an assist each and Hamilton with two assists. Subban also led in shots with six. Vesey, Miles Wood and Jeremy Groleau each had three hits to tie for the lead in that category. Thompson and White each had two blocks, leading there. Takeaways were led by Wood and Jesper Boqvist with two each. Zacha and Wood both had three giveaways. McLeod led all Devils centers in faceoff percentage with 67-percent.

Next up, tomorrow, the Devils will travel to Bridgeport, Connecticut to face the Islanders at 2 PM. That game is only streaming via the Devils radio app. I will try to do what I can to get the recap written and up in a timely fashion.

Until then!