Of all the crazy scenarios, this one was almost unthinkable. Meeting for the first time in this unique Hudson rivalry, the Rangers and Devils battled past regulation. A game that featured the two teams combining for an unlikely five power play goals had one final surprise in store. Kevin Klein’s improbable overtime winner lifted the Rangers to a 4-3 win over the Devils at The Prudential Center. The unlikely candidate became the first Blueshirt defenseman to score this season.
By far their best win so far, the Rangers rallied back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to post their third straight victory. It was made possible thanks to Rick Nash, who continued his torrid pace by scoring his league-leading eighth of the season with 5:28 left in regulation. The much ballyhooed finisher is on fire. He’s looked on a mission so far. His tying marker was made possible due to an awful turnover from veteran defenseman Marek Zidlicky. His errant clear was easily intercepted by Kevin Hayes, whose shot rebounded off Cory Schneider right to a streaking Nash who buried it. He’s not missing those because he’s hungry. Nash has gone to the dirty areas and is getting rewarded.
Early in the third period, it looked like the Devils would take the first installment of four regular season matches. Already having scored twice on the man-advantage, they made it three when second-year defenseman Jon Merrill took a Damien Brunner pass and put a low shot past Henrik Lundqvist with Jaromir Jagr in front. The goal came just 36 seconds in and increased their lead to 3-1.
Discipline was a problem for both teams. Special teams dominated with the Devils scoring all three of their goals on the power play. It took the Rangers seven games to convert on the power play. Chris Kreider and Chris Mueller each tallied power play goals. In the first period, Kreider put the Rangers ahead 1-0 with both Ryan McDonagh and Marty St. Louis assisting. Most notably, McDonagh finally hit the score sheet tallying two assists including a key one on Mueller’s PPG that allowed his team to come back.
After falling behind early, the Devils responded with three consecutive goals. First, Jagr tied it with his first set up by Brunner and Travis Zajac. You had to figure Jagr would finally get one facing one of his former teams. He finished with a goal and assist also setting up Adam Henrique’s power play goal that put New Jersey ahead 2-1 with 5:05 remaining in the second. Impressive rookie defenseman Damon Severson picked up a secondary helper for his fifth point in six games. Henrique’s one-timer looked to be heading wide but deflected off Klein past a perturbed Lundqvist. Perhaps it was fitting that Klein played the OT hero.
A Kreider interference minor in the final minute allowed the Devils to have another power play. After failing during the first part, they connected for a third time when Henrique recovered a loose puck and helped set up Merrill’s first to put the Newark hosts up 3-1. Pressing for more, they were unable to increase the margin. Lundqvist made some key stops to give his side a chance. That included getting a piece of a dangerous Mike Cammalleri point blank chance pushing the puck off the crossbar. He finished with 28 saves.
Ironically, the game turned on a Cammalleri penalty. He accidentally got a piece of a John Moore shot with his stick sending the puck out of play which led to a delay of game minor. It only took the Rangers 23 seconds to get back in it. Alain Vigneault sent Mueller out to take the offensive draw. Even though he didn’t win it cleanly, he helped retrieve the puck getting it to the point. McDonagh made a diagonal pass to Derick Brassard, who faked shot before threading the needle for a Mueller one-time blast short side for his first goal (point) as a Ranger. That cut the deficit to 3-2 with 10:54 left.
Afterwards, the Rangers attacked with vigor. Dangerous virtually every shift, they came close a couple of times. The closest was when Kreider had a loose puck bounce over his stick in front. Eventually, it was a costly mistake by Zidlicky which allowed them to tie it. His turnover led directly to Nash finishing off a low Hayes shot that caromed off Schneider for the equalizer.
Undeterred, the Devils went for it. They kept attacking and nearly had the go-ahead goal a couple of times. However, Lundqvist made some crucial stops on dangerous opportunities. He also had some good fortune when he stopped Ryane Clowe and then had Dominic Moore and Marc Staal push a loose puck underneath him for a whistle. Conversely, Lee Stempniak nearly had the winner when on a rush his snapshot went off the crossbar with over two minutes to go.
Just from how both teams played, it looked like someone would win in overtime. Severson had a great chance when he spun around a defender but fired a shot wide. Eventually, Mueller and Kreider started the other way. Mueller dropped for Kreider, who drew the Devils D before making a no look pass to Klein, who cut in and beat Schneider at 2:42 for the OT clincher.
NY Puck 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Chris Mueller, NYR (power play goal, assist in 12:21-might be a keeper)
2nd Star-Adam Henrique, NJD (power play goal, assist, 3 SOG in 20:51-dangerous throughout)
1st Star-Chris Kreider, NYR (power play goal, assist, 4 SOG in 16:18-brilliant rush and set up)