For the first time this season, the Hudson River rivalry made its appearance at Prudential Center.
The Devils were seeking their first win of the year over their bitter rivals from Manhattan after suffering a shootout loss and a regulation loss in the two games played at Madison Square Garden earlier this season. The Rangers had won eight straight over the Devils in a streak New Jersey desperately wanted to put to an end.
And revenge is sweet. After it seemed to be business as usual with the Rangers jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period, the Devils officially put five unanswered by Ranger goalie (and potential candidate for both the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Trophy this season) Igor Shesterkin to claim victory over New York 7-4.
The Devils broadcast on MSG+2 kicked off with General Manager Tom Fitzgerald as a guest with Erika Wachter and Bryce Salvador on the pregame show.
In the wake of the NHL Trade Deadline, Fitzgerald touched on a few different topics. He did say that the Devils were trying to make “hockey trades” which, as he explained, involved the Devils getting NHL-ready players or assets to use for future trades (basically anything the team has control over – no rentals) but that no trades that were offered made sense for either team.
He said that Andrew Hammond is working his way back from injury and will join the team later tonight when the team travels to Toronto. He will be on the ice for the Devils tomorrow as New Jersey will carry three goalies for the season, keeping Nico Daws up in the NHL, but playing him a little more sparingly so as not to put the burden on him.
As for the injury, Hammond should be ready to go by next week.
Fitzgerald also talked about the Utica Comets and their success this season as well as the Devils further reassessing the goaltending situation (including Mackenzie Blackwood) in the offseason.
Tonight though, it was back to Daws for the Devils in the net. He made 31 saves on 35 total Ranger shots for an .886 save percentage. Daws stopped the one Rangers shorthanded chance but got just one of their two power play shots. The Ranger power play actually clicked at a 100-percent pace at 1-for-1. At five-on-five, Daws stopped 29 of 32 New York shots.
The Rangers started their all-world goalie Shesterkin and he played only 40 minutes and stopped 19 of the 24 shots that he saw for a nightly save percentage of .792. He stopped the lone power play shot the Devils threw his way and got 18 of the 23 shots he saw at even strength.
He was relieved at the start of the third period by Alexandar Georgiev (who was coming off of a shutout of the Carolina Hurricanes in his last game). He made five saves on seven total shots for a .714 save percentage. At full strength, he got five of six Devils shots faced and let in the only shot he faced on the power play.
The Devils ended the game with 31 total shots, including three on the man advantage. The Devils finished 1-for-3 as a team on power play opportunities.
The Devils lineup situation saw Pavel Zacha still out healing from the Western Canada road trip and Colton White as a healthy scratch. Defenseman Christian Jaros cleared waivers yesterday and was reassigned to AHL Utica.
Jimmy Vesey was the most recent victim of the flu bug that had hit the Devils locker room and was sick the last day or two but did play tonight.
The Rangers had three players making their debut for the team tonight – all acquired at the trade deadline. They included defenseman Justin Braun (traded from the Flyers) and forwards Andrew Copp (from the Jets) and Tyler Motte (received from the Canucks).
New York would waste no time in jumping out to the early lead just 7:10 into the game. Mika Zibanejad scored then to give the Rangers the 1-0 lead.
It developed when Devils defenseman Damon Severson attempted to clear the puck out of the New Jersey zone with a pass through Zibanejad’s legs. Zibanejad intercepted the puck and kept the play alive in the Devils zone. New York got it towards Daws and a few Ranger players had a hack at it.
Alexis Lafreniere (who notched the secondary assist) had a chance and Chris Kreider (primary helper) had his whack. Zibanejad finally put the loose puck behind Daws off of the scramble in front.
Daws had made a few nice stops on the sequence, but the Rangers had still gotten one by him.
The Devils had a few chances of their own immediately following that goal.
Jack Hughes and Yegor Sharangovich narrowly missed tying things on a 2-on-1 when Sharangovich received the pass, took too long to pull the trigger on a shot and simply ran out of room.
Later on, Zibanejad took the game’s first penalty and, when that was killed off by the Rangers, came out of the box and was hit with a pass for a breakaway that was turned aside. Going the other way, Andreas Johnsson was stopped by Shesterkin on good scoring chance.
After all that, however, it was the Rangers who ended up doubling their lead.
At the 13:55 mark of the first, Copp won a faceoff for New York in the Devils end and Zibanejad moved it to Adam Fox pinching up the right-wing boards. He had time to shoot backdoor and roofed the puck over Daws to make it 2-0 Rangers.
And that was how things were set up heading into the first intermission. How the second period would end was about to blow some minds on both sides of the Hudson.
It began with a goal that has gone through a few owners over the course of the two or three hours since it was scored.
Only 7:12 into the second frame, the Devils cut the lead in half when Jesper Bratt used his speed to enter the Rangers zone and back up the New York defense.
This gave him space to make a pass across the rink to Ryan Graves. Graves pinched in and blasted a shot from the left-wing side. Shesterkin made the initial stop and the puck bounced around in front with Nico Hischier and Tomas Tatar there taking whacks at it in front. Somewhere along the way, the puck ended up in behind Shesterkin.
The problem with describing this goal is that, initially, it seemed to be Tomas Tatar’s swipe that put it in but Nico Hischier was awarded it officially. That was changed midway through the second period when the scoring was changed to be Tatar’s.
By the end of the game, it would be Ryan Graves’ goal but the scoring is a little wonky. For instance, Tatar was still mentioned as the goal scorer when he was named the game’s first star at the end of the night – despite the scoring having already been changed to make Graves the goal scorer.
I will not argue with things because I do want to move on with the recap, but by giving Bratt the sole assist, it eliminates Hischier and Tatar’s involvement in the play completely which… makes no sense due to the fact that they were both originally given credit for scoring the goal.
Well, maybe it will be changed in the next few days as the NHL is wont to do. As always, we’ll keep you updated.
Moving on, the Devils needed only a little more than 1:15 to tie the game up at two.
At the 8:30 gone by mark, the Devils forecheck kept the puck in the Rangers zone and it got moved up to Ty Smith at the near point. Smith found Andreas Johnsson at the far half wall with a pass and Johnsson set up PK Subban with a pass at the point for a blast. The puck was put on a tee and Subban let loose a bomb, beating Shesterkin cleanly to make it two all.
The Devils were nowhere near done.
At the 12:40 mark, Dawson Mercer fought for the puck along the far boards, winning the board battle and jarring it to Graves, as he was camped at the point.
Graves’ shot was saved by Shesterkin but he gave up a rare big rebound that Mercer was able to get to and put in behind him. Mercer had fought off Zibanejad, who was on him in front in order to be in position to score the goal.
Just like that, the Devils had fought back to take the lead at 3-2. Unlike the lead in Edmonton on Saturday, this was a lead the Devils would never relinquish.
Tatar did get on the scoresheet less than a minute after the Mercer goal when Bratt hit Severson with a pass. Severson was at the point and saw Tatar cutting up the left side towards the Ranger net. Tatar tapped Severson’s pass in for the Devils’ fourth unanswered goal at the 13:13 mark of the second. It was now 4-2 Devils.
It was after this goal that the Rangers began to get just a bit flustered.
Ryan Reaves tried in vain to goad Mason Geertsen into a fight. Geertsen kept his cool though and did not engage. Reaves would end up taking a slashing penalty against Geertsen 19 seconds after Tatar’s goal to set up the Devils first power play of the night.
The Devils wasted no time in converting as Bratt and Jack Hughes played give-and-go in the Ranger zone after Hughes rushed in up the right-wing side. Hughes then made a nifty spinning pass back to Bratt, who finished to seemingly make it 5-2 Devils.
However, Rangers coach Gerard Gallant used his coach’s challenge to argue that Dougie Hamilton was offside prior to Hughes entering the zone.
A big tell that New York must have been pretty confident about winning the challenge was that they were already on the penalty kill when the challenge was issue. Losing it meant that they would receive a delay of game bench minor and be down two men.
Sure enough, the replay showed Hamilton offside by a fraction of an inch as there was just enough white ice between his skate blade and the blue line to call the goal back, reset the game clock to 6:08 or so remaining in the period and to put the Devils back on the power play.
Bratt would not have a goal on the night, but with two assists, did continue his four-game point scoring streak.
The Rangers would kill the rest of that penalty off, but the Devils struck one more time before the period was through.
This one came at 18:07 gone by when Hischier crossed into New York territory on the rush. He made a drop pass to Sharangovich just inside the blue line and went to the Ranger net, tied up with a New York defender to provide a screen in front of Shesterkin. Sharangovich shot through the screen and scored to make it 5-2 Devils.
Hamilton atoned for the offside by providing the secondary assist with the pass to Hischier. The Sharangovich goal also capped a period where the Devils scored five unanswered and simply blitzed the Rangers.
It was the second time this season that the Devils notched five goals in a single period. They did so a few weeks back in the third period of the win at St. Louis over the Blues.
That offensive explosion resulted in the end of the night for Shesterkin as Georgiev was in the crease for the Rangers when the teams came out to start the third.
The Rangers did alleviate a little bit of their shock 3:46 into the third frame when Artemi Panarin got the puck from Ryan Lindgren threw it towards Daws from the near point.
Ryan Strome redirected it in front by Daws, who did get a slight piece of the shot through traffic. However, it did beat him and the Rangers made it 5-3.
From there, Jack Hughes took things over starting at the 9:36 mark to put the icing on the Devils win cake.
At the 7:53 mark, Strome was give an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the Devils were again on the 5-on-4 advantage.
About 1:30 into that two-minute power play, the Devils stopped a shorthanded Rangers odd-man rush and Hischier, backchecking like a maniac, fought for the puck on the boards just near the Devils blue line. He was able to spring it to Hughes, who broke in on a 3-on-1 into the New York end.
Hughes and Hischier played catch on the entry with Hughes getting it and shooting into the empty goal mouth once Georgiev had gone down to the ice.
That goal occurred at the 9:36 mark. Just 1:10 later, Hughes scored his second, this time at even strength.
Subban hit Sharangovich with a nice outlet pass to get the Devils off in transition. Sharangovich dished to Hughes, who simply sliced his way through the Rangers defense and ripped past Georgiev to give the Devils the 7-3 lead.
Hughes had his 20th and 21st goals of the season – the 20th goal of the year was also his 100th career NHL point. He can now call himself a 20-goal scorer in the NHL, the first of hopefully many such seasons for the budding superstar.
The Rangers added one before the end of the game when Kreider scored his 42nd of the year (he is having a monster year for New York and may even end up scoring 50) on the power play.
Vesey was called at 14:32 for a hook on another newly acquired Ranger, Frank Vatrano to put the Rangers on what would go down as their only power play of the night.
Kreider converted 24 seconds into the man advantage when Fox played catch with the other D at the point before sneaking down, pinching up the far boards.
He then threw a shot on Daws that the Devil goaltender stopped. Copp got a chance at it and Kreider put that rebound in to make it 7-4, which was our final for the night.
In the end, the Devils became the only team besides the Calgary Flames to put five goals by Shesterkin in one night (the Flames have actually done so twice in both meetings with the Rangers this year).
To tally, Hischier finished the game with two assists, Sharangovich with a goal and an assist, Bratt with two assists, Hughes with two goals, Graves with and goal and an assist and Subban with a goal and an assist. Those were the guys with multi-point nights.
In addition, Johnsson, Mercer, Tatar, Hamilton, Smith and Severson all participated in the scoring in some way as well.
Yet still, the Rangers outshot the Devils 35-31. The Devils did win 52-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Mikey McLeod was the center who led the Devils in personal faceoff winning percentage with an efficiency clip of 78-percent in the game. Hughes won 71-percent of his draws over more ice time allotted, however.
As a team, New York racked up six penalty minutes while New Jersey had just two accumulated. The Rangers laid 24 hits while the Devils had 18. The Devils blocked 17 shots to the Rangers’ nine. For team giveaways, the Rangers had five while the Devils eight.
Ice time saw Hamilton overtake Severson with 21:59 total minutes logged (including 4:21 on the power play) to Severson’s 21:42 (which included 4:06 on the power play and 24 seconds of shorthanded time). Jonas Siegenthaler also had 24 seconds of PK time, as he and Severson were on the ice together for Kreider’s goal. Siegenthaler logged a total of 19:05 for the record.
Up front, Hischier led in ice time with 20:40 of total time (including 4:26 on the PP and 24 seconds on the PK). Bratt led in power play time by a second with 4:27 out of his 18:55 of total TOI. McLeod was the other forwards who was on the ice for the penalty kill (24 seconds out of his 7:36 of total ice time).
Personal stats saw Bratt lead with five. The hits leader was Nathan Bastian with three. Hamilton led in blocks by a large margin with five. Personal giveaways saw Smith lead with two while Vesey recovered two turnovers to lead in takeaways.
Next up, it will be a quick turnaround, but the Devils will need to keep the momentum going if they want to achieve only their second win of the season north of the border.
Tomorrow night, at 7 PM, they will visit the Toronto Maple Leafs, another playoff-bound team that will put forth yet another challenge for this young team.
That game will be shown on MSG+ and we will have coverage of it for you right here after the conclusion.
Until then, see you in (less than) 24 hours!