Recap: Rangers Dominate Devils, Win 3-1

Recap: Rangers Dominate Devils, Win 3-1
Mar 11, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Matt Rempe (73) controls the puck against New Jersey Devils left wing Tomas Nosek (92) during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Battle of the Hudson. Whether it’s playoffs, regular season, or exhibition, they’re always far from uneventful outings. The Rangers came into this one riding high off their 4-0 win against the Blues over the weekend and kept things going with a controlled, dominant showing against the Devils. It was bound to be a crazy week for the Rangers who kicked off one of five games in a seven day stretch but all things considered, they played a great game and picked up a pair of key points in the front nine of an important back-to-back stretch.

1st Period:

Another early advantage for the Rangers as Erik Haula was sent off for tripping Jack Roslovic away from the play. The Rangers held possession for a good amount of time with Jonathan Quick pulled on the delay call and carried that momentum into the man advantage. Artemiy Panarin had a great chance with Chris Kreider providing a screen which went off the post and the second unit was really flying out there for the second half of it. Nevertheless, the Rangers had nothing to show for on the first power play.

One of the big storylines going into this outing was this being the first game between the Rangers and Devils following Matt Rempe’s big hit on Nathan Bastian that resulted in him being ejected from the game on his first shift. The Devils almost immediately went out and traded for Kurtis Macdermid, noted tough guy formerly of Colorado and Los Angeles. Sure enough, during the fourth line’s first shift, Macdermid immediately went over to Rempe to initiate a fight, an offer the Rangers youngster wisely turned down.

While most of us love a good hockey fight, it’s sometimes just as tough for a player to turn one down, especially when it’s the rookie calling the shots, immediately going on to generate some offense. Not long after the commotion or perhaps lack thereof, Alexis Lafrenière made an incredible play to turn around and find Artemiy Panarin with a back handed pass. Panarin then tucked the shot right under the crossbar for a heck of a goal to give the Rangers an early lead, at least for a moment. As it would turn out, Trocheck had entered the zone just before the puck did which led to a successful coaches challenge from New Jersey’s interim Head Coach Travis Green.

Just nearing the midway point of the period, a great passing play from that line resulted in a great scoring chance for Will Cuylle who came just short of tapping in the puck on the short side of the net. That same shift however resulted in Kaapo Kakko getting his stick caught up high on Jack Hughes which gave the Devils their first power play chance of the evening.

Following a strong penalty kill from the Rangers, Artemiy Panarin fed Mika Zibanejad with as great a scoring chance he’s had, especially at 5-v-5 in quite some time but was slashed on the play and could not get enough on the backhander to find the back of the net. Alexander Holtz would be the culprit as the Rangers top power play unit took to the ice for the second time in the opening period. Despite a couple of good chances, the Rangers couldn’t convert and even gave up a dangerous shorthanded chance as Erik Haula found himself on a breakaway that Quick was able to get a piece of.

Quick wouldn’t have an overly busy period as the Rangers out-shot the Devils 13-6 through the first twenty. However, he did come up big on the few high danger chances he saw which helped keep things locked at zero. Quite a dominant start for the Rangers who controlled the pace, won 79% of the face-offs, and led the period in attempts and high danger scoring chances.

2nd Period:

The Rangers picked right back up with the pace they established in the first but the Devils had a bit more of a jump to their game as well. Through the first couple of minutes, the scoring chances were spread out a little more evenly as both sides saw strong opportunities though the game remained scoreless.

Five minutes in, the Rangers received their third power play of the night as Brendan Smith tripped up Erik Gustafsson on the rush. Wouldn’t do the Rangers any good as just 29 seconds into the advantage, Adam Fox was called for standing in the way of Curtis Lazar. The teams skated 4-on-4 for a minute and a half as things remained scoreless. Nearing the midway point, the third line saw a flurry of chances, one of which led to a great opportunity for Kaapo Kakko to put his team on the board but an effective defensive effort from Luke Hughes tied him up.

With seven and a half to go in the second, Mika Zibanejad finally snapped his cold streak. A fantastic forecheck from Jack Roslovic resulted in Kreider chipping the puck to Zibanejad in the slot where he was able to tuck a backhander past Kaapo Kahkonen to officially give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. That would be Zibanejad’s first 5-on-5 goal in 30 games with his last one coming on December 23rd.

The goal also comes as Mika’s 20th of the season which gives the Rangers four players with 20+ goals on the season. (Trocheck, Panarin, Kreider, Zibanejad)

The Devils followed that up with a couple of strong chances that Quick came up big on. One of which included a breakaway from Jesper Bratt who came in with great speed but had nowhere to put the puck as Quick read the play perfectly. Lafrenière followed that up with a great chance of his own as he ripped a shot off the post. However, he would end up finishing the shift in the penalty box as he was awarded a questionable penalty for what looked like a pretty good hit on Luke Hughes.

Another good kill kept things moving and as the period was nearing its end, the Rangers were continuing to prove they were in charge of things. With under a minute to go, the Rangers fourth line took to the ice and after winning the face-off, Matt Rempe parked himself right in front of the net which allowed for the shot from Erik Gustafsson to go flying past Kahkonen to make it a 2-0 game. Great shift by the Rangers rookie.

Then things hit the ceiling fan… Upon attempting to deliver a big hit on Jonas Siegenthaler, Matt Rempe caught his elbow right up in Siegenthaler’s face which left him stunned and slow to get up. This naturally prompted MacDermid to throw the gloves and chase after Rempe but in an attempt to draw a penalty from the Devils, Rempe just stood there as the officials escorted him off the ice. Rempe was assigned a five minute major which was reviewed and deemed an appropriate punishment which would put an end to his night.

Surely, this will be a hot topic across the next couple of days and it doesn’t help that Rempe offered MacDermid a wave on his way off the ice. There’s a lot to unpack here but I think it’s important to keep in mind this is a 21 year old kid who has arguably had one of the most unprecedentedly hyped up starts to his NHL journey. He was coming off a great shift, trying to keep the momentum going but at the end of the day, it was a bad hit. He’s not a dirty player but it was a bad hit and both things can certainly be true. There’s growing pains when it comes to developing in the NHL, especially when you’re not a highly coveted prospect. An incredibly unfortunate situation all-around that Rempe absolutely needs to and hopefully will learn from.

3rd Period:

The Rangers had their work cut out for them to start the final period with over four minutes of a major penalty to fight off. Barclay Goodrow had a great shorthanded chance as the Rangers penalty killers did an extraordinary job of killing off the full major penalty without giving up many shots let alone a real threatening scoring chance. Things slowed down from there as the Rangers didn’t give the Devils any gust to potentially catch wind of, at least for the majority of the period.

With about eight minutes to go in regulation, the Rangers were sent back to the power play as Erik Haula was called for interference against Artemiy Panarin. As it would turn out, it just wouldn’t be the power play’s night as the Rangers failed to get anything of substance generated and advanced to 0-4 on the night.

With two and a half to go, the Devils pulled Kahkonen for the extra attacker and sure enough… a shot from Simon Nemec at the point would sneak through a ton of traffic to go off the post and in, bringing the Devils within one. Thankfully, Vincent Trocheck would take the puck down on the next empty net chance to regain the two goal lead, now 3-1 which would be the games final score.

Chaos at the very end of the second aside, this was a very good game from the Rangers. They were in the driver seat from start to finish and really did a great job of outplaying their opponent. Hopefully Rempe won’t face any further discipline from the hit but it’s hard to justify that not being the case. Regardless, the Rangers won’t have much time to think about that or much else from the last 24 hours as they’re off to Carolina to take on a well-stocked Hurricanes team in an attempt to defend the top seed in the division.