Zibanejad beats Schneider, Devils in overtime


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Mika Zibanejad finally ended his goal drought by beating Cory Schneider at 1:16 of overtime to give the Rangers a 4-3 win over the Devils. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy NYRangers.

For nearly two periods, the latest game between Hudson rivals was boring. It needed something. The Rangers were leading by two and had dominated the Devils in the second period. They threw everything but the kitchen sink at Cory Schneider, who was brilliant in stopping all 17 shots to give his team a chance.

Then, old 2012 playoff hero Adam Henrique scored on a wrap around past Antti Raanta to awaken the sellout crowd of 16,514 at Newark. His 16th goal of the season coming with 1:32 left awakened not only the fans on each side but his teammates. They came out and took it to the Rangers, who look like they got rained on by the thunderstorms in the room.

Consecutive Kyle Palmieri goals 47 seconds apart to start the third suddenly gave the home side a 3-2 lead. Their first lead of a game they trailed 2-0 in. Continuing to launch an all out assault on Raanta, they never got that big fourth goal. Had they, maybe we’re singing a different tune.

Instead, the Rangers recovered to take over the second half of the period getting a tying goal from Adam Clendening with 4:25 left in regulation. It would be the Manhattan side of the Hudson rivalry that prevailed in overtime on a Mika Zibanejad goal that beat Schneider five-hole at 1:16 ending a chaotic three-on-three for a wild Rangers’ 4-3 win. It was their league-leading 21st road victory.

This wasn’t your ordinary game. The Devils were clearly the better team at the start. They fired the first five shots on Raanta, who was sharp in his first start since Feb. 13. He stopped all 15 Devil shots in the first. A favorable bounce allowed the Rangers to go ahead. A Dan Girardi point shot went off a Devil and then Chris Kreider and banked off the goalpost and in for a 1-0 lead at 6:40. That snapped a six-game goal drought for Kreider, who got his 23rd from Girardi and Mats Zuccarello.

Before the period concluded, Jesper Fast faked shot and then passed across for a sweet Oscar Lindberg finish at 17:32 for a two-goal lead. A very heady play by the defensive forward who replaced Jimmy Vesey on the first line late in regulation. Lindberg continues to play well getting his fourth off hard work while seeing an increase in ice-time (11:36).

Even though the Devils held a 15-10 shots edge, they trailed by two. It looked like they would fall behind by a lot more in a lopsided second. The ice was tilted with a more aggressive Blueshirts all over the Jersey hosts. They spent so much time in the Devils end, it got boring. Schneider was the only reason it was still a game. He made some remarkable stops totaling 17 in what was a Rangers onslaught.

Part of the problem was the Devils kept turning pucks over. Taylor Hall over skated one causing a dangerous point blank chance for Kevin Hayes, who was robbed by the quick glove of Schneider. Normally dependable defenseman Andy Greene fell down but Zuccarello was unable to take advantage.

A tripping penalty to Devante Smith-Pelly for taking down Brandon Pirri handed the Rangers a big opportunity. Even though they got some looks on it with five shots testing Schneider, they still were unable to capitalize- extending their power play misery. Alain Vigneault even tried Clendening and Brady Skjei together near the end. It almost resulted in a shorthanded goal. With Skjei forcing a pass into Clendening’s skates at the blue line, it led directly to the dangerous Henrique breaking in on Raanta. But before he could get off a shot, a hustling Zuccarello lifted his stick to negate the chance. A terrific play by a determined player.

That didn’t prevent Henrique from finally getting one a few minutes later. He was able to gain a step on Lindberg cutting around the net and beating Raanta with a clean wrap around that cut it to 2-1 with 1:32 remaining in the second. A strong move and finish by him. Beau Bennett and P.A. Parenteau drew the assists.

So, the Rangers led by one after two. The odd part being their two goals came in the first when the Devils were the better team. The Devils getting their lone tally in a poor second. Good goaltending can make up the difference.

The start of the third was inexplicable. From a Ranger standpoint, it was like they were still in the room. Palmieri tied the game 27 seconds in when he used Dan Girardi kneeling down as a screen to surprise Raanta for his 17th. Travis Zajac and Hall earned the helpers. With the Devils contingent fired up, Kreider then took a bad delay of game minor penalty handing them a power play.

Handed a gift, it took the Devils only four seconds to surge ahead. Off a clean face-off win by Zajac back to Greene, he let go of a quick wrist shot from the point that Palmieri was able to deflect in past a helpless Raanta for a 3-2 lead at 1:14. MSG replays showed that rookie Miles Wood made contact with Raanta on a screen in front. He was battling for position with Girardi. The refs signaled goal. So, Vigneault’s coach’s challenge needed conclusive evidence from Toronto to overturn. They confirmed that it was a good goal allowing for more celebration from the pro Devils crowd.

Of course, Glenn Healy whined about it afterwards. Was there some contact? Yes. But was it enough to overturn? No. Sometimes, he can be a blatant homer. Steve Valiquette is the best Rangers analyst. He didn’t kill Raanta for the first Palmieri goal due to Girardi bending down which hurt his sight.

Regardless, they now trailed a game they once were in control of through no fault but their own. They melted down for a good chunk of the third. The Devils were all over them for a while. But some key stops from Raanta kept it a one-goal deficit. He played another good game finishing with 35 saves to earn his 12th win.

The Devils were handed another opportunity when Vesey took a undisciplined tripping penalty 45 seconds after Kreider went off and watched Palmieri score his 18th.  Not bad considering the awful start he had. But the Rangers were able to kill it off. Of course, Kevin Hayes got a chance when a clear led directly to a two-on-one with J.T. Miller. Hayes was stoned by Schneider.

But as the period continued, the Rangers began to turn the tide. Starting to regain momentum with their forecheck, they began generating chances which Schneider answered. Eventually, sustained pressure from Zibanejad allowed Kreider to come out from behind the net and center for a quick Clendening release that beat Schneider at 15:35 with two Devils screening him out. One thing about Clendening. He has a good shot. He took advantage for his second of the year to force overtime.

When it reached three-on-three, I just wanted someone to end it. The Rangers had gone to two straight shootouts. I didn’t want to see another skill competition decide a good game. Palmieri nearly ended it twice. On a turnover, he came in and was thwarted by a sliding Raanta. Then, he seemed to have the game on his stick. With Raanta down, he missed.

That miss proved crucial. Skjei quickly made a great outlet for Zibanejad allowing him to get a step on Damon Severson. He had just enough room to use a good fake of a slap shot and then go to a wrist shot that went five-hole on Schneider for the game-winner at 1:16. It was his first goal since Jan. 17. He also assisted on Clendening’s tying goal.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Antti Raanta, Rangers (35 saves including 15/15 in hectic 1st-came through when his team was on ropes)

2nd Star-Mika Zibanejad, Rangers (overtime winner-8th, assist, +3 in 23 shifts-15:46)

1st Star-Cory Schneider, Devils (36 saves including 17/17 in 2nd-remarkable work even though he allowed 4 in a tough loss)

Notes: With another good showing, Pirri recorded three shots in 15 shifts (11:31) on the fourth line. Does he stay in for a third straight over Pavel Buchnevich against the Blue Jackets tomorrow at MSG? … Shots were 40-38 Rangers. Attempts were 60-57 Rangers. … There were a grand total of 28 hits. Seventeen by the Devils. A paltry 11 by the Rangers. In a rivalry game no less. … Face-offs went in favor of the Blueshirts 27-23 led by Miller (9-and-3). Zajac paced the Devils going 10-and-7. … In a rarity, Marc Staal led the Rangers in ice-time with 22:31 in 30 shifts. Ryan McDonagh got 22:12 in 27 shifts attempting eight shots with none hitting the net. …. Severson led all Devils with 23:11 in 29 shifts going minus-three. Greene received 22:42 in 30 shifts with an assist and even rating. …

Correcting a mistake earlier in my preview, Rangers are a point up on the Blue Jackets, who humiliated the Islanders 7-0. They are tied with the Penguins in points (82) at the moment. Pittsburgh is playing the Flyers in an outdoor game at Heinz Field leading 1-0 on Sidney Crosby’s NHL-leading 34th goal. … Devils fell to 0-2-1 in last three. They’re 25-25-11 overall with 61 points in 61 games including a disappointing 13-12-5 at home. They next host the Canadiens on Monday.

Adam Clendening talks about his big tying goal:

OT Hero Mika Zibanejad talks about his game-winner while wearing the Broadway Hat in a candid interview with MSG’s John Giannone:

Kyle Palmieri talks about how the swing in momentum:

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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