Before getting into this game, I want to prepare all of you for what’s ahead. Our lineup for this game consists of:
No Zacha, no Bratt, no Butcher, no Thompson, no Blackwood, not even Wedgewood. Instead we have Aaron Dell, and Matt Tennyson.
Apparently all my prayers for Nico’s return should have been more specific about ‘and also can we still have everyone else please’.
Alas, here we go:
Within the first 30 seconds Dell makes an easy save on Ryan Strome look like a dramatic, difficult play because he drops the puck nearly on the goal line after barely making the save. At least he made the save, so it’s slightly better than the start of our last game, but that does not bode well for the remainder of this game.
Johnsson, who for some reason is on the second line tonight, makes a nice play to take the puck back from the Rangers defense, but promptly loses it for the Devils by making his signature sloppy, out of control jumping puck pass. On his next shift he picks up a dangerous rebound in front of the Rangers net and very helpfully carries it away safely into the corner before losing it.
Panarin forces a turnover from Michael McLeod and creates a 2 on 1 for Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich against PK Subban. Zibanejad waits patiently for Subban to dive to the ice as a result of the invisible sniper that seems to shoot exclusively when Subban is defending on a 2 on 1, passes around him to Buchnevich who now has a wide open net to shoot at, and he doesn’t miss. 1-0 Rangers.
Severson is forced to take a penalty for holding soon following the goal to prevent yet another odd man rush. The kill is going well until 45 seconds in when we take yet another penalty for too many men. Yippee.
Tennyson fails to clear the puck on a perfect opportunity to do so, which leaves the puck still in the zone for the Rangers to pick up, find Ryan Strome, who rips it from the goal line across the crease to the opposite post and in. 2-0 Rangers. The Devils remain on the penalty kill for another minute and 15 seconds.
The Devils can’t clear the zone yet again, Pavel Buchnevich picks up a wild rebound from Dell with four seconds remaining in the penalty and roofs it past Dell. 3-0 Rangers.
To add insult to injury, the Rangers create another 2 on 1 opportunity, this time against Matt Tennyson, who defends it almost perfectly. Unlike the guy we pay 9 million dollars to do the same thing. I may have shed a tear.
The Crash line gets the blood really flowing as the third period starts to wane. Nathan Bastian starts it by boarding Libor Hajek, Miles Wood takes it to the next level and finds himself with three Rangers on top of him, then everybody gets involved. Somehow Wood gets a penalty for this as well and only Strome finds his way to the Rangers box, so we’ll end the period with yet another penalty kill.
The Devils narrowly escape several good chances to create another powerplay goal, and survive the final minute of 5 on 5 in their own zone as well before the end to the period saves us from letting in another goal, at least for the next 20 minutes.
Unfortunately, the Devils made the decision to come back out for the second period. Even more unfortunately, Aaron Dell did not. Panarin picks off a pass and races into the zone, catching Ty Smith flat-footed and speeding past him. Panarin takes a shot that Dell barely gets a piece of as it whizzes past his ear and into the net. 4-0 Rangers.
The Devils continue to make things too easy for Igor Shesterkin at the far end of the ice. Our best scoring opportunities are wasted with shots to the chest and rebounds that no one is near to pick up.
Nico Hischier carries the puck into the zone and drops a slick pass for Nick Merkley to tip into Shesterkin. Shesterkin doesn’t actually make the save, but the puck dribbles in and just barely stops before crossing the goal line of its own accord. You really can’t make this up.
Merkley drew a penalty on his way to the net, so the Devils will go to their first powerplay of the game. Jack Hughes gets a single shot away and the rest of the powerplay fades into nothingness along with my hopes for finishing this season with any sort of dignity.
Mikhail Maltsev gets a blast of a shot off that Shesterkin is able to grab. Off the ensuing face-off, Siegenthaler gets a chance but no one can get a hold of the rebound amongst the crowd in front of the net. Back the other way and the Rangers have yet another 2 on 1 that once again is defended well by Matt Tennyson, and I am beginning to question every bit of respect I’ve ever had for the NHL.
Finally, the Devils create a scoring chance and rebound that someone actually gets. It’s Michael McLeod, who picks up a loose puck slid across the crease by Bastian and rips it up over the stretching Shesterkin to break his shutout streak and put the Devils on the scoreboard again. Still 4-1 Rangers, but the Devils are looking a lot stronger already.
The Rangers try to set up in the Devils zone, but Nico Hischier is having absolutely none of it. He steps up on Chytil, shoves him into the ice and waltzes away with the puck to clear the zone.
K’Andre Miller is the next player to try to shove the opposition to the ice, but he does it after Johnsson has already relinquished the puck, so he gets two minutes in the box for his trouble. Fortunately for Miller, the Devils’ special teams continue to be the cause of all grief and pain in the universe, and nothing happens out of it besides PK Subban taking a slapshot that misses the net. So nothing out of the ordinary.
The Devils will carry over about 20 seconds of powerplay time to start the third period.
Things get scrappy quickly again as the third period takes off. Somehow Bastian is on the bottom again, after being thrown into Shesterkin and then thrown for daring to hit Shesterkin. Bastian and Kreider will both sit for coincidental minors, so we’ll go to some 4 on 4 hockey.
The Devils can score in any situation as long as we’re evenly matched. Jack Hughes finds PK Subban who amazingly manages to hit the net this time (probably because he stopped and set up the shot rather than ripping a bomb that has less than a 50% chance of even hitting the net) and the Devils chip another step off the Rangers lead. 4-2.
The Devils are not done with their 4 on 4 onslaught however Jack Hughes again carries the puck in, turns and feeds Ty Smith. Smith walks down the middle and rips it past Shesterkin to chip the Rangers lead down to a single goal. 4-3!
The 4 on 4 has ended but the Devils are really bringing the fight now. For the past two years the conversation has been Hughes vs Kakko, but today the battle is Hughes vs Shesterkin. Can Hughes set up the tying goal, or will Shesterkin snuff it out?
Rangers take a penalty with just under 6 minutes remaining in the period. The Devils look good despite almost giving up a shorthanded rush, but can’t get anything done on it. Or the remaining minutes in the game. The most exciting thing was a few Rangers chance and me yelling pass the puck FORWARD at the TV.
The Devils pulled the goalie for some unknown reason, and Buchnevich nets an empty net goal to top off the birthday hat trick for him. And then Kreider gets another one, because for some even more stupid reason the Devils decided it was a good idea to still keep the net empty.
The game ends 6-3, the Devils lose yet again to the Rangers, but at least we didn’t give them another shutout this time.
No highlights, only this chart because the highlights are depressing but this chart at least makes things look slightly better (or worse depending on your perspective)
The Crash line reunited and it feels so good. Please keep them together Lindy.
Faceoffs: Nobody had less than a 50% in the faceoff circle at 5v5. Nico Hischier finished the game at 70% throughout all situations. We spent most of the season saying we had to improve our faceoff numbers, so it’s nice to see that isn’t an issue anymore.
I know we sound like so much of a broken record y’all are probably going to report us as spam next time we say this, but I have to: Special teams was bad. So, so bad. It cost us the entire game.
As many people have pointed out: we might’ve won this game if it was played just 5 on 5. We out-shot them 53-34 at 5v5. We definitely would’ve won if it was played at 4 on 4. Unfortunately, hockey doesn’t work that way, so someone needs to find the cure for what is ailing our special teams, because they truly cost us not just tonight but this entire season. Powerplay troubles aren’t even new to this team, as our powerplay hasn’t been good for several seasons now. Considering the changes that have been made to the lineup and staff over those few years, it may well be time to look at who is in charge of the powerplay as the problem. The penalty kill has lost a number of successful killers in the past year and was one of the few things that was excellent last season, so I will extend that position a bit more grace. Only a bit though.