Latest posts by Phil Kocher (see all)
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8-1-1 in their last ten games, the Rangers invaded Newark Saturday night to take on the New Jersey Devils who were just 4-4-2 in their last ten. Having won both prior contests against their cross-river rivals, the Rangers looked to take a commanding lead in the season series, though it wouldn’t come easy.
From the drop of the puck, the Devils played with an early sense of urgency, easily controlling the games first few shifts. That was until Mika Zibanejad forced Devils defenseman John Merill into a turnover behind the goal line close to the mid-way point of the period. The puck found it’s way to the point where Girardi rifled it at Schneider. It bounced off multiple skates and legs along the way and was credited to Chris Kreider as the Rangers drew first blood at 13:20.
Despite being out-shot 12-7 by the Devils with less than five minutes to go in the period, Jesper Fast hooked up with Oscar Lindberg on a beautiful goal to increase the Rangers lead 2-0 at 17:32. Fast faked a slapshot, instead opting for a cross-ice pass to a wide open Lindberg who roofed it past Schneider. He and Holden were given assists on the play and the Rangers would close out the period with a comfortable two-goal lead.
That comfort wouldn’t last long, however, as just the Devils would strike back early in the second.
After Mats Zuccarello made a phenomenal backcheck, lifting his stick to prevent a 2-on-0 opportunity, Adam Henrique spoiled Antti Raanta’s shutout bid, opening the scoring for the Devils at 18:28 on a wrap-around attempt that snuck in through Raanta’s five hole. The period would draw to a close with the Rangers still leading 2-1, but like the end of the first, that lead would prove tenuous.
Kyle Palmieri tied the match just 27 seconds into the final frame, firing a puck through a Dan Girardi screen past Raanta’s glove. Raanta got a piece of the shot, but not enough to stop the puck from bouncing over the goal line.
It was a sign of the surge to come, as the Devils increased the pressure, forcing Chris Kreider to take a delay of game penalty at 18:50. It would send the Devils to their first power play of the night, and they made short work of the opportunity, as Andy Greene blasted a shot over Raanta’s right shoulder right off the face-off. Girardi again screened his own goaltender on the play. The Rangers did challenge the goal, as it appeared Devils rookie Miles Wood may have interfered with Raanta in the crease, but the call on the ice stood, and the Devils took the lead for the first time in the game, now ahead 3-2.
Both the tying goal and the go-ahead goal came in a span of just 47 seconds early in the third period.
The Rangers again took another penalty as Jimmy Vesey was whistled for tripping at 18:05, though this one they’d manage to kill. They even forced Schneider to make a big save in the dying seconds of the power play on a failed Kevin Hayes shot down low.
The pendulum eventually swung back in the favor of the Rangers, however, as they began to mount a comeback attempt with less than ten minutes to go in the game. Their efforts would pay off as Chris Kreider’s strong work with the puck below the goal line would ultimately lead to an Adam Clendening point shot that would tie the game with 4:25 to go. The goal was Clendening’s first since January 7th against the Columbus Blue Jackets and would allow the Rangers to take the game into overtime where they’d ultimately complete the comeback.
After Raanta made a huge save on a partial Kyle Palmieri breakaway early, Brady Skjei was able to gain control of the puck and lead Mika Zibanejad on a long stretch pass. Zibanejad faked a slapshot, getting Schneider to bite just enough to open his legs where the puck would be neatly tucked in, giving Zibanejad his first in 16 games and the Rangers the hard-fought victory.
Zibanejad with the OT winner. What a way for him to end his 16-game goal drought. Rangers win 4-3.
— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) February 26, 2017
The Rangers next game is Sunday, a back-to-back, against a Columbus Blue Jackets team coming fresh off a 7-0 victory against the New York Islanders.
Assorted musings: Chris Kreider has five points (three goals, two assists) against the Devils this season; the Rangers lead the season series 3-0; the Rangers are now 22-2-0 when leading after two periods.