Recap: Schmid, Hamilton Stop the Bleeding, Devils Defeat Rangers 2-1 (OT)
Rangers fall to 2-1 in the series.
Game three was always going to be important. After taking both games on the road to start the series, the Rangers had the opportunity to go up three-zero, which is a heck of a lot better than two-one. In this pivotal moment, Lindy Ruff and the Devils made the bold move to start Akira Schmid over incumbent Vitek Vanecek, who looked more than a little shaky in his two starts. The decision paid off in spades, as Schmid led the Devils to 2-1 overtime victory.
Schmid’s impact was immediately noticeable, as he matched Igor Shesterkin’s scoreless first period. Both netminders made a few big saves on quality chances. It took until the second for Chris Kreider to break the ice with his fifth goal of the series. Rather than his typical tip, Kreider sniped the puck into the short-side top corner on the rush. Like Shesterkin, Kreider has picked the right time to be in top form.
The lead was not to last, however, as Jack Hughes knotted the game at two. The Devils drew the powerplay when Timo Meier, maybe kind of sort of pushed by Braden Schneider a little bit, toppled over in the crease. Shesterkin retaliated by smacking the prone winger with his blocker a couple of times.
Shesterkin was called for roughing and after a scrum ensued, the Devils were granted a powerplay. The Rangers PK lost track of Hughes, and when he reemerged in the left circle, had had plenty of time to line up a shot and wire it past Shesterkin. The Rangers had three powerplays of their own in the second, they but failed to execute.
Neither team managed to break the tie in the third. The Rangers had one more powerplay—their fifth of the game—but came up empty. On the other end of the ice, the Rangers only conceded seven shot attempts. Three of them were of good quality by good scorers, but Igor was Igor.
And so the game went to overtime, where Dougie Hamilton scored the biggest goal of his life. The Devils’ transition game was on display, as they exited their defensive zone with a long pass. Jesper Bratt carried the puck toward the Rangers’ slot, lost and regained the puck, and moved it to Hamilton. Shesterkin left a little too much net open, and Hamilton found it.
After the Rangers won by an aggregate of 10-2 in the first two games, this was the first game that was competitive the full way through. Full credit to Schmid for keeping the Devils in the series—35 saves in your playoff debut is no joke—but it is also worth noting that the Rangers shot themselves in the foot with several key misses. Though he wasn’t alone, Artemiy Panarin missed the net from dangerous areas on ice multiple times. The powerplay laying an goose egg and the PK letting up a goal was also a reversal from previous games.
Still, the Rangers have another home game and can put themselves back in the driver’s seat if they can manage a win against Schmid and the Devils on Monday. A strong reponse will be essential.