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Devils Comeback Thwarted By Penalty Kill in 5-3 Loss to Rangers

First Period

The Wood-McLeod-Bastian line started the game against the Rangers’ Panarin-Strome-Blackwell line. The Devils won the draw, and they got quickly on a dump and forecheck. Miles Wood did take the puck away, but the Ranger pushed it out of the zone. The Devils and Rangers then went back and forth, with the Devils blocking away a centering pass from Panarin to Strome.

The Hughes line acme on, and Jack Hughes got the first shot on goal of the game. He collected the puck at the edge of the faceoff circle, turned, and shot into Alexandar Georgiev’s chest.

Nolan Foote got his first shift of his career two and a half minutes in. The Rangers took the puck away behind the New Jersey Devils’ net, and got a good shot on Mackenzie Blackwood that had to be saved. On the following shift, Michael McLeod made a great play on the rush, doing a one-handed chip of the puck past a Rangers defenseman to Miles Wood, who was alone on Georgiev and lost the puck.

Yegor Sharangovich set Jack Hughes up in front of the net, but Hughes was unable to convert on the chance. Hughes pulled the puck around the crease for a backhand move, but let the puck go too quickly, allowing Georgiev to get his pad out.

Nico Hischier and P.K. Subban went after Jacob Trouba after Trouba laid a big hit on Andreas Johnsson. Kevin Rooney stepped in to intervene on Trouba’s behalf, and Subban and Rooney got into a rumble. The hit from Trouba was high, making primary contact to the head. Yet, the Rangers got a power play out of it. Nico Hischier was called for roughing.

The Devils did well to keep the Rangers to the periphery of the zone in the first minute, but Mika Zibanejad got an open lane to Chris Kreider at the side of the net. Blackwood went to make a save on Zibanejad, and Kreider was wide open for a tap-in. 1-0, Rangers.

Jacob Trouba put another big hit on Miles Wood, who was unable to stay on the ice. Wood hobbled off ice and into the tunnel as the Devils pushed the attack. Bastian had a chance for a redirection, and the Hughes line put several attempts on goal. Miles Wood was shown hunched over in the tunnel, but appeared to move back toward the bench. The replay showed Trouba making contact with his knee on Miles Wood.

Mikhail Maltsev rang a shot off the post off a feed from Matt Tennyson, who drove the net on the rush. Georgiev was waiting for puck movement away from the wall, and Maltsev took the shot instead.

After putting on multiple dominant shifts, the Devils turned the puck over on the breakout to Brett Howden. Howden slid it across to Vitali Kravtsov, who scored his first NHL goal on a one-timer under Blackwood’s arm. It was a shot that could have been stopped, but the turnover by Siegenthaler was an unnecessary test. 2-0, nonetheless.

The Rangers took a penalty with 3:24 to play, as Janne Kuokkanen lost the puck in the offensive zone, and Kevin Rooney decided to knock him down to keep him behind the play. So the Devils got an interference call. Mika Zibanejad got on the rush on the penalty kill, but lost the puck. The Rangers cleared after the Devils regained the zone. On the second attempt, Ty Smith had a one-timer that created a rebound off a Nico Hischier tip – but Wood was faced the wrong way for it. Smith then took another shot, but Georgiev covered the loose puck. Play was then stopped for an injury, as Georgiev seemed to have a leg issue. Igor Shesterkin then came into the game.

The first unit then came back on, given the long stoppage. They lost the puck anyway, and Mika Zibanejad shot wide on a counterattack. Jack Hughes had a shot that was redirected just wide, and Sharangovich’s shot was blocked at the end of the power play. At the end of the period, Marian Studenic had an amazing opportunity as he cut to the net for a redirection off a feed from Jack Hughes on the wall. However, Shesterkin’s pad just got the shot. Thus, it remained a 2-0 Rangers lead as the Devils went to the locker room. The shots were 12-6, Devils.

Second Period

With Georgiev back in net, the McLeod line was able to hold the Rangers’ top line at bay, allowing the Hughes line to get a more favorable matchup. However, the Rangers’ neutral zone structure prevented Jack Hughes’ line from doing anything. The Hischier line came on, but Tennyson turned it over at the blueline to Alexis Lafreniere. However, the Devils were able to counterattack after the Rangers flubbed an odd-man rush, as Hischier forced Georgiev to save and cover the puck.

Mackenzie Blackwood had to make two huge saves on Ryan Strome all alone, as Strome split Severson and Murray. These were huge saves to keep the Devils in the game. On the other end, a Subban shot created a loose puck right in front. Janne Kuokkanen had an open net, but turned the puck around too slowly to make use of it.

Alexis Lafreniere scored on a backhand shot on the rush, off a backhand feed from Philip Chytil. After Lafreniere scored, he was thrown into Blackwood and the net by Matt Tennyson, and both players were shaken up. 3-0 Rangers.

Marian Studenic took a penalty for sending Ryan Lindgren into the boards. He was sent off for a cross-checking minor with 9:35 to play in the period. On the penalty kill, the Devils had to deal with a very shoot-happy Rangers team. The Devils blocked a few shots, and Ryan Strome rang a shot off the post at the end of the first minute. The Devils then got two successive clears. Nico Hischier took the puck away from K’Andre Miller high in the zone, sending it ahead to Yegor Sharangovich, but the pass was too far and nothing came out of it. As the penalty expired, the Devils had a three-on-one, but McLeod took the shot rather than move the puck, and the Devils got nothing on the rebound.

Jack Hughes was called for tripping Anthony Bitetto, as he was about to be all alone with Alexandar Georgiev. Hughes was furious about the call, slapping the puck around the boards and whacking his stick into the boards as he entered the box. He was thus called for a ten-minute unsportsmanlike conduct. The replay showed no clear trip – but it was barely replayed by the broadcast.

The Devils did very well on the penalty kill, playing with far more aggression than they had in any kill I’ve seen this season. They had the puck in the Rangers’ defensive zone multiple times, and did not have to deal with any attempts on Blackwood.

The Devils finally got past Alexandar Georgiev with 1:05 left in the period. P.K. Subban shot it from the point, and it deflected off Yegor Sharangovich and then off Georgiev. Mikhail Maltsev got the rebound with his backhand for his fifth of the year to make it a 3-1 game. Subban and Kuokkanen were credited for assists.

The period ended with the shots 21-19 in favor of New Jersey, so the Rangers outshot the Devils 15 to seven in the second period.

Third Period

Nico Hischier stopped in the offensive zone with the puck, hesitating with passing options available as he drifted above the faceoff circle. Hischier took the shot, and it went past Georgiev’s glove and off the post.

Marian Studenic then got rewarded for his game, as he was sprung into the offensive zone by Mikhail Maltsev, and went far-side with the shot past Georgiev. 3-2 game. Andreas Johnsson got the secondary assist for tipping the cross-zone pass from Severson to Maltsev, which was dropped in for Studenic.

Nolan Foote won a puck battle along the boards against four New York Rangers, and passed it across to Nick Merkley. Merkley could have one-timed it, but held on to set up a cutting Nico Hischier for a one-timer, and hiss hot got past Georgiev to tie the game at three aside. With Jack Hughes in the box for ten minutes, the Devils rallied from three down.

Marian Studenic was tagged for another penalty with 12:23 to play in the game, as he held Artemi Panarin in the defensive zone. On the penalty kill, Damon Severson cleared the puck off the draw. Artemi Panarin entered the zone for New York, and started the cycle. The Rangers moved the puck quickly and cleanly, forcing the Devils back into their weak diamond. Mika Zibanejad got a one-timer from the side of the slot, but it went wide. On the other end, Nico Hischier took the puck away behind Georgiev, and only banked the puck off the pad weakly in hopes of a rebound. Jack Hughes came on at the end of the kill, but turned it over to Kaapo Kakko in the defensive zone. Kakko’s shot went high.

Nico Hischier set Miles Wood up for a redirection as Wood cut to the net, but Georgiev made a great save. A couple minutes later, Jack Hughes had K’Andre Miller one-on-one. Hughes flipped the puck up over Miller’s stick to himself, and his shot was turned just wide by Georgiev.

Andreas Johnsson showed more speed than he had all year, getting a short pass from Ryan Murray behind Blackwood’s net and taking it all the way down the ice. Johnsson took it to the far-end goal line and cut across Georgiev, creating a mess of players in front of the net as his backhand chance was a good one.

With five minutes to play, the Rangers largely controlled play with offensive zone time. However, none of their shots were particularly threatening yet. With 4:21, Nico Hischier iced the puck. Hischier lost the draw to Chytil, and Blackwood saved the shot off the draw, freezing the puck. After the following draw, Ryan Murray took a high-sticking penalty in the corner against Kaapo Kakko with 4:10 left to play.

On the penalty kill, the Devils were under threat early, with a shot blazing past Blackwood in the first minute that went wide. After Nico Hischier poked the puck out of the zone, the Devils’ forwards were the only ones who could change, and Mika Zibanejad went bar down from the slot. 4-3, Rangers.

With two minutes to play, P.K. Subban iced the puck, looking for Andreas Johnsson cutting down the boards. The Devils pushed the puck down to their offensive zone, but had to recollect in the neutral zone. With the Hughes line on, the extra attacker came on with a bit over a minute to play. Maltsev, the extra attacker, missed the net with his shot.

With under a minute, the Devils lost the puck to Artemi Panarin, who flipped it to Blackwell. Blackwell pushed it ahead to Ryan Strome, and Subban hooked him as he approached the net. Thus, the Rangers were awarded a goal to make it 5-3.

The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats

Good Game for Hughes and Hischier

Ten-minute misconduct aside, this was a very good game for Jack Hughes. He was credited with five takeaways, five shots, four individual scoring chances, 0.43 individual expected goals, and his line had the Rangers pinned back most of the time they were on the ice. However, I was not as impressed with Sharangovich and Kuokkanen. Sharangovich, at least, was good at skating the puck around oncoming opposition, but neither were very good at making use of the chances Hughes created.

As for Nico Hischier, I can only imagine how good he will look when he has Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt back on his wings. His seven shots, six individual scoring chances, and 0.5 individual expected goals led the team, and his goal could have pushed the Devils toward victory, but Ryan Murray and Alain Nasreddine had other plans. Nico was also proficient on the penalty kill, as the Devils allowed zero shots with him on the ice for 3:27 at four-on-five.

Good Game for Foote and Studenic

If there’s one thing we want from the end of this season aside from the occasional win to stave off madness, it’s the positive development of Devils prospects. Marian Studenic, in his fourth NHL game, scored his first career goal. He was also on a very solid line with Nico Hischier. In 6:34 together, the Johnsson-Hischier-Studenic line had a 66.67 CF%, outshot the Rangers 5-3, and had a 56.34 xGF%. Of course, Studenic would get his goal while playing with Johnsson and Maltsev, and Hischier would get his goal with Merkley and Foote while Jack Hughes was in the box.

In just 8:07 of ice time, Nolan Foote had a 46.67 CF%, was on the ice for the Devils outshooting the Rangers five to four, was on the ice for two goals against, and assisted on the game-tying goal while sporting a 50.27 xGF%. However, he was not really to blame on the two goals against. Jonas Siegenthaler made a bad pass to Matt Tennyson, setting up Kravtsov’s goal. On the second goal against, by Lafreniere, Tennyson played the pass poorly on the two-on-one, and Blackwood let up a bad goal. Foote won a very important puck battle along the boards, leading up to the Hischier goal. Players like Foote are exactly what the Devils’ forward group needs.

Just Fire Nasreddine and Recchi

Another day, another potential win killed by the Devils’ special teams. The Devils had five minor penalties called against them, and the Rangers scored twice. On the first goal, the Devils left the passing lane for a far-side tap-in wide open, and on the second the Rangers preyed on the collapsed diamond the Devils used to try (and fail) to prevent puck movement into the slot. Nasreddine’s penalty kill structure was terrible today, and the only time the kill was working was when the Devils’ forwards got the puck in the neutral and offensive zone, allowing them to kill extra time and prevent breakouts. The actual defensive structure in front of Blackwood is rotten, and the 70.1% efficiency shows that.

As for Mark Recchi’s power play, the Devils only had one opportunity to make things happen today. It was just more of the same from that group as well. At 16 for 124, the power play is now operating at a 12.9% efficiency rate. With a -21 goal differential on special teams, the Devils should not sit back and watch this continue to happen. Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier were creating opportunities left and right at even strength today. Why can they not move the puck correctly with one fewer defender? With as talented a group of players as they have – especially with Ty Smith quarterbacking, Mark Recchi should have done a much better job than he has. It’s not about whether there’s been improvement since the start of the year – his group’s transition passing is still poor, their in-zone passing is atrocious, and they don’t create any momentum out of the power play.

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