Recap: Hudson River Rivalry Season Finale A Riot

Recap: Hudson River Rivalry Season Finale A Riot
Apr 3, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Matt Rempe (73) and New Jersey Devils defenseman Kurtis MacDermid (23) fight at start of the 1st period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Oh the beautiful game. With some unfinished business in their last meeting, Matt Rempe rejoined the Rangers lineup as the team’s fourth lines kicked off one of the most entertaining games in quite some time. Looking to sweep the season series against the Devils, the Rangers came from behind after a dominant start to pick up their 51st win of the season.

1st Period:

Fans are no stranger to line brawls with the New York Rangers, especially when it comes to the New Jersey Devils. We saw it in 2012 when Stu Bickel, Brandon Prust and Mike Rupp took on Ryan Carter, Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton in their final meeting of that regular season. However what we saw tonight was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

Just two seconds into the game, right off the initial puck drop, not one, not two, not three, not four, but five fights right out the gate. Given the Rangers last meeting with the Devils, we were all expecting the one to take place between Matt Rempe and Kurtis Macdermid. What we weren’t expecting was Barclay Goodrow, Jimmy Vesey, Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller to all pair off with other four members of the Devils starting line-up.

This led to an extremely unique situation where eight skaters would be ejected from the game just two seconds into play. Hockey is a bit notorious for having very unclear rules and one of which that many people, including some of the skaters on the ice, learned for the first time tonight was that any fights that take place after one has started results in automatic game misconducts. Low and behold, because Jimmy Vesey and Curtis Lazar were technically the first pair to drop the gloves, everyone else was considered secondary which put an end to all of their nights.

On top of all the chaos, Peter Laviolette was less than enthused with Devils interim Head Coach Travis Greene. To the point where it almost looked like there was going to be another fight breaking out, and not between a pair of players.

It’s going to be extremely interesting to see what stories regarding the big brawl come following this game, but regardless, there’s going to be plenty to talk about. One thing I will say is if the reason for the full line brawl happening was the Rangers way of sticking beside their rookie who was very clearly going to be answering the bell from what happened in their last meeting, then stick taps all around. You win as a team, you lose as a team and while it may not have been very productive all things considered, they fought as a team and that’s exactly what you want to see. A group of guys willing to go to war for each other.

Nevertheless, there was still a hockey game to be had and it was the Devils getting the early advantage as we wouldn’t even make it a full sixty seconds before the next penalty. Jack Roslovic was sent off for boarding Luke Hughes which brought the Devils power play to the ice. A successful penalty kill from the Rangers kept play moving as the teams continued to settle down following the exciting start.

Just a couple of minutes after the penalty to Roslovic ended, Will Cuylle laid a big hit from behind on former friend Brendan Smith which led to the sixth fight of the game. Dawson Mercer was quick to defend his veteran teammate as he immediately went after Cuylle which earned him a ten minute misconduct on top of the fighting major and instigator minor.

Nearing the midway point, Roslovic had a great chance with the one timer on the back door off a nice passing play that started with Erik Gustafsson feeding Mika Zibanejad to find him on the left side. The very next shift, the play started and ended with Artemiy Panarin as he dumped the puck in for his linemates to chase. Vincent Trocheck would one-touch it back to Adam Fox who let the shot go from the point. Alexis Lafrenière was right there in the slot to pick up the rebound and send it back over to Panarin for a perfect one timer to make it a 1-0 game.

The Devils did challenge the play for offsides but the call on the ice stood, we had a good goal which gave the Rangers their first power play of the night as a result of the unsuccessful coaches challenge. The Rangers wouldn’t capitalize on the man advantage but would get a second opportunity a few minutes later as Tomas Nosek was called for cross-checking Braden Schneider.

While it would technically go down as another unsuccessful power play for the Rangers, the second power play unit would find the back of the net less than ten seconds after Nosek returned to the ice. A fantastic individual effort on the forecheck from Roslovic led him to carry the puck around the Devils net to find Alex Wennberg in the slot. His shot would be taken care of by Kaapo Kahkonen but Lafrenière was right there to put the rebound home, 2-0 Rangers.

The Rangers would end the period short handed once again as Trochcek was called for hooking Ondrej Palat with exactly one minute left in the period. 162 penalty minutes spread across the two teams as six fights counted towards 27 penalties called in the first twenty minutes of the game. There were more fights then shots on goals for the Devils as the Rangers had the advantage in that regard, 15-4. An all around exuberant start in this one as the Blueshirts backed the chaos with some strong offense to control the game.

2nd Period:

The Rangers still had 60 seconds to kill on the Trocheck penalty to start the period and did so successfully as the two teams eased into a slightly more normal period of hockey. However the tide would quietly start to turn as the Devils found the back of the net just two minutes into the second. Right off the face-off Jack Hughes walked the puck around the top of the Rangers zone to find Palat on the right side for the one-timer, cutting the Rangers lead in half, 2-1.

Jesper Bratt nearly made it an even game as Nico Hischier knocked Panarin off the puck at the blueline to send the Devils quickest forward on a breakaway. Igor Shesterkin came up with a massive save to turn the shot away but this period would soon become the Jesper Bratt show.

Right at the halfway point of the game, a weird bounce in the Devils zone led to them going the other way with the puck. A defensive breakdown by the Rangers allowed Bratt to find a pinching Brendan Smith all alone in the slot to snap the puck home to tie the game up 2-2.

The Rangers called a timeout in attempts to settle things down but it wouldn’t do them any good. Just a minute and a half later, another highlight reel pass from Jesper Bratt found Nico Hischier in the slot area to send a quick shot past Shesterkin to give his team their first lead of the night, 3-2 Devils.

Quite an atrocious period for the Rangers defensively as they were extremely sloppy allowing for the Devils to find their offense. The Rangers still led in shots on goal now 26-11 but would go into the final period of regulation trailing by a goal. Between the Rangers defensive struggles and the Devils taking away the Rangers east/west passes, the script had certainly been flipped setting the stage for an exciting third period.

3rd Period:

The Rangers had their work cut out for them heading into the final period and a fantastic shift from the Cuylle-Wennberg-Kakko line almost tied things up early. A great shot from Kakko went off the glove of Kahkonen but settled between the goaltenders legs. The Devils were quick to follow that up with a pair of their own chances but the Rangers held strong.

With 14 and a half to go in the game, Kaapo Kakko made a great play at the Rangers blueline to block a shot and ended up going the other way with it for a breakaway. The puck started rolling a bit just as Kakko was going to let it rip but did a great job of adjusting to still get the shot off. It would fire past Kahkonen to knot things up, 3-3.

Kakko now finds himself on a five game point streak with three goals and two assists in his last five games.

From there it was all Rangers as Lafrenière and his linemates nearly regained the lead on an odd man rush and the Kakko line continued to maintain consistent, lengthy shifts in the offensive zone. With about six and a half to go, the Rangers would get another power play as Brendan Smith was called for hooking in front of his team’s net. A quarter of the way into the power play, Panarin nailed Kahkonen in the face mask with an absolute rocket of a shot. The Devils netminder was left stunned but after a brief break would remain in the game.

With just under five minutes to go and the power play nearing its end, Panarin did a great job of re-entering the zone off the rush. As he slowed down to make a decision, a drop pass back to Adam Fox resulted in Chris Kreider getting a deflection on the shot to capitalize, regaining the Rangers lead now 4-3.

The goal comes as Chris Kreider’s 107th career power play goal, officially passing Brian Leetch for sole possession of third in franchise history.

With a minute and a half to go, the Devils pulled Kahkonen for the extra attacker and Jack Hughes nearly tied it up with a shot that went off the side of the net. The Rangers did a great job of fighting off the Devils final push and held onto that one goal lead right up until the final buzzer. For the first time since the 2014-15 season, the Rangers completed a season series sweep against the Devils in arguably one of the most exciting games in recent history.

The Rangers are back at it Friday Night as they hit the road to take on the Detroit Red Wings.