The New York Rangers returned home to Madison Square Garden Sunday night, after a strong road win in Columbus the night before. Their opponent? None other than their cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils, in the clubs’ first meeting of the season.
The Rangers played another strong game, despite some lapses. They ended up with 41 shots on goal again, in what is a very encouraging sign for an offense that had failed to consistently generate many chances before these two weekend games.
The Devils scored first on a Jesper Bratt breakaway goal, and took that 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The Rangers answered with two goals in the second period (from Adam Fox and Alexis Lafrenière) before the Devils tied it again on a Dougie Hamilton power-play goal. After the Rangers went ahead 3-2 in the third period on Kaapo Kakko’s first goal of the season, Pavel Zacha tied it late for the Devils to force overtime. Overtime produced no goals, so the game went to a shootout, where the Rangers ultimately prevailed in seven rounds on Chris Kreider’s winning goal.
NJ: Jesper Bratt (4) - Dawson Mercer (6) & P.K. Subban - 15:23
The Rangers got off to a decent start, coming off the heels of their strong final two periods in Columbus the previous night. During the second half of the opening frame, however, the tide started to shift towards the Devils. They broke the ice after Kreider broke his stick on a shot attempt. As New Jersey gained control of the puck, Kreider was retrieving a new stick from the bench, and was unable to react in time to see the middle of the ice opening up for Bratt. Dawson Mercer hit Bratt with a slick pass to send him in all alone on Alexandar Georgiev. Bratt beat Georgiev easily with a quick five-hole shot.
Towards the end of the period, the Rangers had a glorious chance on what became a three-on-one with K’Andre Miller leading the rush. Miller sent a backhand pass from the right wing to the other side to Kreider, who teed it up for Sammy Blais in the slot. Blais stepped into a slap shot but hit the crossbar.
The Rangers finished the period with 11 shots on goal, while the Devils had 10.
NYR: Adam Fox (4) - Unassisted - 3:11
The action jumped up a notch in the second period, with the Rangers spending a bit more time in the New Jersey end. They got on the board early in the frame. Julien Gauthier, who had another strong showing following Saturday night’s game, made a nifty poke check to clear the defensive zone, then drove all the way to the net, where he was stopped by Mackenzie Blackwood. Lafrenière was then stopped on a rebound attempt, but the Devils were still scrambling. Fox intercepted a clearing attempt and scored on a beautiful backhand shot—which is quickly becoming a patented move of his—to tie the score, 1-1.
NYR: Alexis Lafrenière (4) - Jacob Trouba (5) & Kaapo Kakko (1) - 11:24
The Rangers took the lead just over halfway through the period. Lafrenière scored his first goal (and point) since Oct. 29, as he found a puck sitting just above the goal line and banged it in after Kakko set up Jacob Trouba for a sharp-angle shot from the left side. The secondary assist was Kakko’s first point of the season.
Lafrenière’s first career power-play point still eludes him, as his goal came a few seconds after a Rangers power play ended.
NJ: Dougie Hamilton (4) (PP) - Jesper Bratt (7) & Pavel Zacha (4) - 13:20
The Devils tied the game only 1:56 later. With Ryan Lindgren in the box for an interference penalty, the Devils entered the zone, as Hamilton, their prized free-agent acquisition, tried a pass that deflected right back to him. Then Kevin Rooney fell to the ice, giving Hamilton enough room to skate towards the left circle and wire a wicked wrist shot that beat Georgiev.
The Rangers ended up out-shooting the Devils 15-7 in the period, but the game was tied heading into the third.
Early in the third, Blais fell into the corner boards awkwardly, appearing to seriously injure his knee. The Devils’ P.K. Subban — who has a bad history when it comes to slew foots and questionable trips, and was hearing boos from the Madison Square Garden crowd all night after a preseason slew foot that injured Ryan Reaves — appeared to contribute to Blais’s fall.
Sammy Blais doesn't put weight on his leg on his way off the ice while helped by a trainer. pic.twitter.com/d918NjogyB— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) November 15, 2021
It does appear that Subban does clip Blais with his skate with his stretched out.. pic.twitter.com/IgGtLSltxq— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) November 15, 2021
Immediately after the game, head coach Gerard Gallant had no official update, but added that the situation is not looking good for Blais.
Blais would be a key loss for the Rangers, who would likely turn to Gauthier and give him a more consistent role. In any event, let’s hope that however serious the injury is, Blais makes a swift and smooth recovery.
NYR: Kaapo Kakko (1) - Ryan Strome (6) - 6:29
Shortly after Blais left the game, the Rangers took the lead once again. Kakko, having already recorded his first point of the season and having narrowly missed on a glorious scoring chance earlier in the game, finally netted his first goal of the season as well. He started the play by taking the puck away from Ryan Graves in the neutral zone before breaking into the zone on the right side and then feeding Ryan Strome in the middle. Strome sent the puck back to Kakko, who, rather than shoot immediately, walked in patiently and dangled around Blackwood before finishing beautifully.
On the play, he collided with Blackwood, who eventually left the game. Lindy Ruff and the Devils, however, decided not to challenge for goalie interference.
This is a good angle to show the contact between Kakko and Blackwood. Seriously shocked Ruff & the Devils' coaching staff didn't challenge for goaltender interference. Goalie interference /is/ a mixed bag, but seems like a play (and point in the game) worth trying for. https://t.co/GKjwqxlO0f— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) November 15, 2021
NJ: Pavel Zacha (7) - Nico Hischier (7) & Tomas Tatar (5) - 17:16
The Rangers squandered their lead late in the game, as three forwards got caught deep when the Devils turned it back the other way. Tatar fired the puck toward the net, where it hit Nico Hischier and bounced to Pavel Zacha in the slot. Zacha fired a shot in one motion that Georgiev stopped, but there was a juicy rebound that Zacha converted to tie the score, 3-3, with just 2:44 remaining.
The game headed to overtime. For the period, the Rangers had a slight edge in shots on goal, 10-9.
The highlight of the extra session was Georgiev atoning for the earlier breakaway goal he yielded to Bratt, and stopping Bratt on another attempt. That was the Dyevils’ only shot on goal in overtime, however, while the Rangers had five. Fox and Artemiy Panarin also survived a long shift of about two minutes without the Devils ever really threatening.
With no one scoring in overtime, the Rangers took part in their first shootout of the season. The Devils scored in the second and third rounds, but were answered by Rangers goals both times. As the shootout extended beyond three rounds, Andreas Johnsson scored in the fifth round, but again the Rangers answered, with Strome converting to keep the game going. Finally, after Georgiev stopped Tomas Tatar (on a preposterous skate save) and Pavel Zacha, Chris Kreider — on only his second career shootout attempt — scored the winning shootout goal for the Rangers on a nice move to his backhand.
Kakko continued his strong game with a pretty shootout goal for the Rangers in the second round. Panarin had the Rangers’ other shootout tally, in the third round, to force “extra innings.”
Shootout:— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) November 15, 2021
Kreider ✔️#NYR win.
Perhaps this weekend can be something to build on for the Rangers — not so much in terms of their record (they are now 9-3-3), but more so in how they played. They generated 41 shots in each game (of course, the second game had an extra five minutes), and possessed the puck much more than they have for most of the season. Getting goals from both Lafrenière and Kakko is a great sign as well.
The Rangers’ next game will be at MSG again, as they take on the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night, Nov. 16, at 7:00 PM EST.