Recap: Rangers Hit Rock Bottom, Keep Digging; Lose 4-0
The Devils win their third straight and it wasn't even close.
After being shut down on home ice, the Rangers returned to New Jersey, where they dominated the first two games of the series. Gerard Gallant called out his team, and every single Rangers' skater knew they needed to be better in game five.
And then they gave up a goal in the first minute of the game.
Granted, it was a fluky one. Vincent Trocheck won a defensively zone faceoff cleanly—perhaps too cleanly. The puck blew past Adam Fox and deflected off Igor Shesterkin and right to Ondrej Palat. He snapped it right back on net, and it popped off Shesterkin’s shoulder and into the net. With the goal, Palat became the second Czech player to score 50 NHL playoff goals. I’ll give you one guess who was the first.
It felt like the Rangers could have collapsed from there, but to their credit, they didn’t unravel. (Spoiler warning: this is the last nice thing I will say about the Rangers for the remainder of this article). Both teams created a few solid chances in the remainder of the period. Akira Schmid made a huge save on Artemiy Panarin off a Devils turnover, and Dawson Mercer rang one off the crossbar, but that was the closest each team came to finding the back of the net.
The Rangers had one powerplay, and, stop me if you've heard this one before, but it came up empty.
The Devils added to their lead in the second. Patrick Kane tripped Jack Hughes in the neutral zone, putting the Devils on the powerplay. The Devils were contained for most of the two minutes, but in the waning moments of the powerplay, all four Rangers skaters vacated the slot, leaving Eric Haula completely uncontested in front of the net. He tipped a point shot while screening Shesterkin, and he got just enough to elude Shesterkin.
The Rangers continued to underwhelm, so Barclay Goodrow tried to fire up his team by challenging Kevin Bahl to a fight. Bahl mostly held him at arm’s length, which is significant given Bahl is 6’6. As he went to the box, Goodrow yelled across the ice, trying to inspire his comrades. Damon Severson even took an unsportsmanlike conduct call, giving the Rangers a powerplay. Perhaps this would be the moment everything changed–
On the ensuing powerplay, Dawson Mercer scored a shorthanded goal to put the Devils up three.
The first unit struggled to set up and get shots. Adam Fox attempted a high, cross-ice pass to Panarin, but it might as well have been a live explosive. Panarin was unable to defuse it, allowing Haula gain control and speed off to the races. He fed Mercer on a two-on-one, and Mercer fired off and absolute laser for his first career playoff goal.
That's weird. A gritty, veteran player with a Stanley Cup pedigree fought somebody bigger than him in a display of leadership, but it didn't lead to a win? But I thought... oh, never mind. There are bigger problems afoot.
Anyway, Gerard Gallant, desperate to stop the Devils from rolling over his team, turned to his most trusted of appliances, an appliance that has been stowed away in a forgotten cupboard for some time now. Yes, he dusted off the ol’ line blender.
Vgotte is forever
Like the fight, this endeavor proved to be futile. The Rangers mounted a slight push late in the second before spending the third period chasing the puck. The Devils guarded the blueline, waited for the Rangers to force a play, and counterattacked, making the most of their superior speed. Shesterkin stubbornly refused to let his team fall even further behind, making tough save after tough save.
The Rangers nearly got on the board when Artemiy Panarin rang one off the post. The puck caromed toward the goal line and laid still for a moment before Schmid brushed it away. In the aftermath, Jonas Siegenthaler and Ryan Lindgren were sent off with coincidental minors, leading to a four-on-four.
With just over five minutes to go, Gallant pulled the goalie to give the Rangers a five-on-four. But the Rangers lost the offensive zone draw, and Haula wasted no time flinging the puck into the empty net on the other end of the rink. Not to be a Monday Night Quarterback or anything, but maybe Gallant should have maybe waited until the Rangers won the faceoff or maybe had possession before emptying the net. Maybe?
For the entirety of the third period, the Rangers only tallied two shots on goal. They lost 4-0, and they deserved it.
. . .
When I thought about how this series could go wrong for the Rangers, I imagined something like this. The Devils completely overwhelmed the Rangers, and the Rangers are now one game away from trading their hockey sticks for golf clubs.
Game six is on Saturday. More to come.