Embarrassment. That’s what this was. The Rangers couldn’t even manage to beat the Devils on home ice becoming their first victim. Lee Stempniak’s overtime winner was the difference in a Devils 2-1 win in the 3-on-3 roller derby. His goal with 1:53 left made a winner of new coach John Hynes, who won behind the bench for the first time.
Honestly, it was fitting that Stempniak won it. A player who wasn’t too bad here last year that Glen Sather cast away to Winnipeg in a cost cutting move. Stempniak won a job out of training camp and plays on the Devils top line. He is a hard working player that gives a honest effort. That is why the Devils won. They outworked a listless Rangers team who went through the motions following a good first period.
There really isn’t much to say. Alain Vigneault changed every line and even started Henrik Lundqvist a sixth consecutive time. It still didn’t matter. The Rangers only beat Cory Schneider once. That came early with their most consistent skaters combining for the lone goal. Rookie Oscar Lindberg forced a turnover on Adam Larsson causing a two-on-one with Derek Stepan. He fed Stepan, who cut in and beat Schneider with a backhand at 3:12 to erase a 116:27 drought.
They could’ve had more in the first but Schneider made some key stops to keep the Devils in the game. That’s what he’ll have to do all season. He finished with 26 saves including eight in the opening stanza that saw the Rangers have a 9-6 shots advantage. Derick Brassard had a good start creating chances with new line mates Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast. Unfortunately, Brassard and Kreider were again up and down.
It’s now six games into the season and neither Kreider nor Rick Nash have a goal. That’s nuts. Kreider did have four shots including one dangerous chance which narrowly missed with Schneider getting a piece of it. He also used his speed during the 3-on-3 derby to create a opportunity. As for Nash, he only had one shot with his best chance coming early in OT off a Stepan set up.
But a diving Schneider got a piece of it and then help from new Devils captain Andy Greene. It was his hustle and backhand clear with the puck heading in that saved a goal. Just a fantastic defensive play. Greene was the best defenseman in the game. Following a Stepan shot off the crossbar, his pass to Adam Henrique started a 2-on-1 with Henrique threading the needle to Stempniak for a one-timer past Lundqvist sending the Devils to their first victory.
That’s two straight games the Devils got a point in. They also played a solid home game against the Sharks taking them to a shootout before losing on a Brent Burns tally. After an 0-3-0 start, they’re 1-0-1 in the last two and have shown improvement under Hynes. They play hard for the rookie coach. New Jersey might not possess much talent but their effort is unquestioned. After a slow start, they outplayed the Rangers and got just reward.
The Blueshirts were sleepless in a miserable second. A J.T. Miller in the neutral zone led directly to Henrique tallying his Devils leading third from Mike Cammalleri and Damon Severson. Lundqvist mishandled a low shot with his defensemen out of position. Henrique went to the net beating Dan Girardi and Marc Staal for an easy finish that tied it at 1:52.
Afterwards, the Devils speed gave a shaky Rangers D fits. They forechecked well and caused turnovers. There wasn’t a whole lot to like from a Rangers perspective. Ryan McDonagh struggled on the power play in the third giving away the puck. Keith Yandle also had a second straight tough game aside from a power play shot. Girardi was on all fours for Henrique’s goal. Staal continues to look slow. Dan Boyle was okay battling hard and created opportunities in the offensive zone. Kevin Klein was fine battling Kyle Palmieri in a scrap. He did take one of those silly delay of game penalties that handed the Devils a 5-on-3 for 1:36 in the third.
The Devils two-man advantage at the start of the third was unwatchable. That’s about the best way to describe the entire period. It was sleepless depressing hockey. The Devils didn’t manage a shot on their power play. Severson and Eric Gelinas were too casual. Nothing developed allowing the Rangers to have an easy kill.
The Rangers were just as bad seeing their own shadow on their two chances. The fact that the first didn’t come until less than 10 minutes left in regulation on a Jordin Tootoo hi-stick is sad. As usual, Vigneault and Perry Pearn clone Scott Arniel trotted the same personnel out. They continue to go with four forwards and one defenseman. It’s not working. McDonagh and Kreider both had equally baffling giveaways for easy clears.
Lindberg didn’t see any power play time. He only got 16 shifts (12:30) which was the second lowest behind Viktor Stalberg (10:40). Would it kill the coaching staff to try different players on the man-advantage?
The two Devil penalties gave the Rangers momentum. They put together some good shifts spending time in the Devil zone. But were unable to beat Schneider. After the teams combined for one shot in the first seven minutes, there were a dozen the rest of the period. The Blueshirts outshot the Devils 8-5.
For the first time this season, the Rangers played 3-on-3 roller derby to decide the extra point. While Vigneault went with two forwards and a defenseman, Hynes initially had one forward and two defensemen before altering the strategy. Stepan and Nash had the best opportunities with Nash getting robbed by Greene. Lundqvist’s best save came on Palmieri off a 2-on-1 sliding across to deny the Devil with Miller sleeping.
With the Rangers pressing, Stepan tried to beat Schneider high stick side. But the puck rang off the goalpost allowing the Devils to counter. With Nash and Stepan caught flatfooted, the Devils came 2-on-1 against Yandle with Henrique nicely dishing across to Stempniak for the winner past a sprawled Lundqvist.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Lee Stempniak, Devils (1st of season in 3-on-3 derby for winner at 3:07)
2nd Star-Adam Henrique, Devils (goal-3rd of season, assist)
1st Star-Cory Schneider, Devils (26 saves)