Sometimes a million different things determine the outcome of a game, and sometimes it’s much less nuanced the way it was tonight – under siege for the entire game, Cory Schneider just flat out refused to allow the Devils to lose to the Rangers tonight. It really was as simple as that in the Devils’ 3-2 win and the fact the attending media only gave him second star just shows how predictable and tone-deaf the media can be. I know there’s something in the unofficial three stars handbook that says the first star must go to the guy who scored a GWG in the final ten minutes of a game (in this case David Schlemko) but let’s be honest, just seconds earlier Schlemko was nearly the goat with a horrific turnover springing Ryan McDonaugh on a breakaway that he somehow missed the net on.
Maybe that play itself was symbolic of the entire game tonight, Cory aside – and he did get some ‘action’ during All-Star weekend, almost everyone else on both teams looked like they were rusty and flat-footed from the long break. For every time Devils d-man Adam Larsson got coned by Chris Kreider alone (three by my count), Rangers d-man Dan Girardi also got coned about as many times, including on the game-tying goal in the third period scored by rookie Joe Blandisi, who showed off his speed and opportunism getting around the veteran D and beating Henrik Lundqvist shortside on a goal the $8 million goalie really should have stopped. Just like Schlemko giveth and taketh away in the third period, Eric Gelinas did something similar earlier in the game when his horrifically timed zero percent chance pinch led to a two-on-one the other way in the first period that JT Miller scored on which pissed me off to the highest level of pisstivity. Mistakes and getting beat are one thing but that was just about the dumbest decision in a series of dumb decisions made by the third-year defenseman that is the reason why he’s been out of the lineup for much of the season and is only playing now due to injuries to Jon Merrill and John Moore.
Yet later on it was Gelinas who would factor into the Devils’ early second period goal on the power play when his point shot got through a screen set by Lee Stempniak and rebounded directly to the winger in front, and he put the biscuit home to tie the game, continuing a very successful ‘tour run’ playing in the sixth of seven straight games against teams he used to play for. Perhaps the break did at least help the Devils’ special teams as the PP contributed the first of its two goals in the game, and the penalty kill was perfect in four attempts. Both units were struggling going into the break but the PP in particular seemed like they made some adjustments, getting more point shots from defensemen tonight than they had practically all season when defensmen were primarily used as distributors on the PP. I’m sure Derek will have more to say on the very odd coaches’ challenge on that goal which had practically a .00000 chance of getting overturned, and yes that’s all zeroes – Stempniak didn’t make contact with Lundqvist at all on the play. I heard someone say well AV just wanted a long timeout. Well why would you need a long timeout in a tie game barely ninety seconds after intermission?
Although the Devils weren’t playing very well they were still tied after two periods, but early in the third Miller struck again on a one-timer from an off angle to give the Rangers back the lead and send the pro-Ranger half of the crowd into a frenzy. At this point I’m depressed getting visions of the home finale last year and thinking how annoying it’s been to go to Devil-Ranger games the last 2-3 years. That thought barely popped into my head when Blandisi tied the game with his burst of skill barely a minute later. Even with the game tied I was still fearful given the frequency of high-quality scoring chances the Devils would give up and continue to give up but Cory continued to make one outstanding save after another and eventually the special teams kicked in one more time when Schlemko scored at 11:14 off a pass that got deflected right to the pinching defenseman. Still I was fearful of the breakdown that would eventually send the game into OT but for the most part the Devils did play the final minutes masterfully, not allowing the Rangers to get Lundqvist out of the net till barely a minute remained and for once stiffening up on defense enough to hold the surge at bay and give the Devils a huge post-break win.
It was not only a big win for the team but also a big win for the fans, many of whom (including me) were there at the lowest of low points last year when we were just the clown props for the Rangers to win the President’s Trophy and got jeered off the ice by a Ranger crowd on Fan Appreciation Day at the Rock. My, how things have changed in less than a year. And as Schlemko said after the game, our fans cheered last and loudest tonight.