Recap: Devils Eliminate Rangers, 4-0
That's all folks.
Game seven. Win or go home. What else is there to say?
The Devils adjusted their lines after a tough outing in game six, but they had a largely similar first period. They dominated five-on-five play once again—in the first ten minutes, they attempted 13 shots while only allowing one very low percentage shot against.
Once again, New Jersey’s discipline betrayed them to the tune of three minor penalties (two of which were drawn by Tyler Motte), but this time, New York failed to capitalize. On the second, the Rangers powerplay moved the puck well and attempted some dangerous shots, but they only tested Akira Schmid once.
The Rangers created next to nothing on their third, and shortly after it finished, Jack Hughes got loose for a breakaway. Ryan Lindgren gave Hughes the tiniest little hook on the back check, avoiding a penalty while disrupting him just enough. Hughes still managed a decent shot, but Igor Shesterkin managed to fight it off. Yet again, the Rangers skaters were subpar, but Shesterskin kept them in the game.
The Devils absolutely blitzed the Rangers again to start the second, and they very nearly notched the game’s first goal on a point shot into traffic, but the puck trickled wide.
About halfway through the period, the Devils found themselves on a powerplay. For a moment, it seemed as though the refs gave the Rangers a gift, as Jacob Trouba got his stick lodged in Jesper Bratt’s helmet off a neutral zone draw. No penalty was called, but later that shift, Bratt was called for tripping Barclay Goodrow. After a brief four-on-four, the Rangers went on the power play, giving them another chance to build some momentum.
Instead, they surrendered a shorthanded goal to Michael McLeod. Adam Fox coughed up the puck in the defensive zone. Chris Kreider almost retrieved it, but Ondrej Palat leaned on him, took it back, and carried it past a nonchalant Fox. He moved it to McLeod, who pulled it to his backhand, and put the Devils up 1-0.
The Devils didn’t stop there. They continued to forecheck, create turnovers, and generate scoring chances. They added to their lead when defender John Marino walked the puck to the net. He missed on a backhand attempt but corralled the puck and tossed it back in front for Tomas Tatar, and he lifted it into the net. Kreider and Vladimir Tarasenko were in the vicinity, but neither engaged defensively.
As you might have guessed, all this led Gerard Gallant to adjust his lines. He reunited the Kids Line and moved Panarin up with Kane and Trocheck, but it ultimately didn't matter.
In the third, the Devils’ defense snuffed out any chance of a comeback. They defended the blue line to prevent easy zone entries, and when the Rangers dumped or chipped it in, they used their superior speed to retrieve the puck, win board battles, and clear the zone. That's how you defend a lead.
Frustrations flared up a couple times. Nico Hischier collided with Shesterkin when the goalie came out of the net to bat the puck away from the streaking center. K’Andre Miller, in a misguided attempt to defend his netminder, mugged Hischier in the corner and was called for roughing. On that powerplay, Trouba checked Timo Meier high and hard. Joe Micheletti described the hit has both “vicious” and “clean.” Uh huh.
As the Rangers pressed for offense, Trouba carried the puck up the sideboards in the offensive zone before lamely turning it over. The Devils counter-attacked, creating a three-on-one. Jack Hughes hit Eric Haula with a Royal Road pass to stretch New Jersey's lead to 3-0. Jesper Bratt later deposited an empty net goal for good measure, sealing the 4-0 victory and sending the Rangers home.
. . .
So the Rangers’ season ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. We’ll have a full postmortem in the coming days. For now, all I have to say is that Igor deserved better.
And hey: thanks for reading.