Blandisi powers Devils past Rangers 3-2 in exciting overtime


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John Quenneville shows off the puck of his first career NHL goal following a Devils’ 3-2 overtime win over the Rangers. He also set up Joseph Blandisi’s winner. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy NJDevils

The final installment of the Hudson Rivalry went to the Jersey side. The Devils earned it thanks to some top notch goaltending from Cory Schneider along with the brilliant play of two young players. John Quenneville scored his first career NHL goal and set up Joseph Blandisi’s overtime winner with 55 seconds left to give the Devils an exciting 3-2 win over the Rangers at The Prudential Center before 16,514.

After the two teams battled a tight checking affair for the first half, Quenneville got the scoring started with his first NHL goal. It came on the power play from Blandisi and another youngster Pavel Zacha at 15:16 of the second period. With Brendan Smith off for tripping, the Devils took full advantage of a Rangers’ penalty kill overload. Zacha passed for Blandisi, who then made a sweet dish across for a Quenneville shot into an open side past Antti Raanta. A well executed play by the Devils’ power play against a struggling penalty kill.

Finally awoken from a malaise, the Rangers responded. Oscar Lindberg continued his strong play by getting his seventh from Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan McDonagh to tie the score with 3:07 remaining. Off a strong cycle from the fourth line, McDonagh kept a puck alive getting it down to Buchnevich. Buchnevich came out and made a great centering feed for an open Lindberg, who was able to beat Schneider in front. Jimmy Vesey also did some good work down low. The newly minted fourth line looks like a keeper.

Sparked by Lindberg’s 10th point in the last 21 games, the Rangers nearly went ahead on the next shift. They threatened but weren’t able to untie the game. Instead, it was a relentless forecheck by the Devils which allowed Taylor Hall to put them back ahead. Kyle Palmieri forced Nick Holden into a bad giveaway. New Jersey’s top scoring line with Travis Zajac centering it had been dangerous all night. Raanta had previously robbed Hall and Palmieri on a few chances. This time, Palmieri passed across for Hall, who got everything on a laser of a shot going top shelf inside the bar for his 18th making it 2-1 with 2:38 left.

But before the period concluded, some nasty stuff took place. For much of the rivalry the past few years, that edge has been missing. Outside of J.T. Miller and Steven Santini exchanging pleasantries post-whistle, there really hadn’t been much. That all changed when Holden delivered a clean hit on Miles Wood near his bench. Getting hit close to the glass, Wood didn’t take kindly to it. Right away, he made a bee line for Holden and started pounding him earning a two-minute instigator along with five for fighting and a misconduct totaling 17 penalty minutes.

The rough stuff with 17 seconds remaining rubbed off as other Rangers and Devils squared off. Smith got into it with a Devil after trying to help out the over matched Holden. It was probably Santini, who plays with the edge the other Devils’ D lack. While Wood won his scrap with Holden to cheers, Vesey mixed it up with Blake Coleman on the other side. Vesey landed some punches but Coleman got the take down in an entertaining fight.

It was refreshing to see some animosity between the two rivals. It really has lacked that extra intensity for a while. Maybe due to where each team is in the standings. One thing was clear. The Devils played hard and didn’t want to get swept by the Rangers in the season series. They had played them tight the last two games but fell short. This one would have a different result in a building they don’t win in.

The extra two to Wood eventually resulted in a tying power play goal from Rick Nash. It was astonishing that the Rangers scored on it. That’s how pathetic the power play is. Their special teams continue to be an issue with the penalty kill stinking it up. Maybe it misses Dan Girardi. We’ll leave that up for debate. As for Nash scoring, he ended a nine-game drought. How did he do it? By going to the hard area and tying it on a quick backhand in front on a very good pass from Kevin Hayes. Along with Brady Skjei, who registered another point, Hayes was patient before passing in front for an open Nash, who turned and backhanded one home five-hole past Schneider for his 19th at 1:21.

It has to be a confidence boost for Nash, who really has struggled. He gets chances every game but hasn’t finished. So, for him to finally score is a good sign. He threatened to score again during a lopsided third period in which the Rangers controlled puck possession and shots, out-shooting the Devils 17-9. There were many long shifts that the Newark hosts spent extended time in their end, relying on big saves from Schneider to keep it tied.

They also caught some breaks with two shots going off the goalpost. The snake bit Derek Stepan rang one off the bar. So did Mats Zuccarello off a clean face-off win. At one point, Stepan was patted on the back by teammate Chris Kreider while on the bench. The good news is he’s getting chances. Hopefully, he’ll finish strong entering the playoffs.

Both netminders were brilliant. Schneider played one of his best games of the season finishing with 38 saves to win for just the 20th time this season. Raanta was superb in stopping 26 of 29 shots. His best coming during a Devils onslaught when through a maze of traffic, he dove on top of a shot and covered up. How he saw it, I don’t know.

The game was destined for overtime. The 3-on-3 was chaotic. The Rangers controlled most of it. Schneider came out and challenged a streaking Michael Grabner, who was in. He made a desperation toe save on an aggressive poke check. Raanta denied Hall in tight on a backhand.

But it was the Blueshirts who maintained puck possession. Eventually, it would be McDonagh, Hayes and Grabner caught out for over a minute. They were in the Devils zone pressing the attack. Hayes came the closest to ending it going in on Schneider and attempting a Forsberg only to be denied by a sliding Schneider, who wouldn’t allow the Rangers to win it.

Eventually, McDonagh got the puck and had room in the slot. He let go of a hard wrist shot that missed the net wide. Once that happened, the three Rangers were cooked. Having been out for an extended shift, it led directly to Quenneville and Blandisi coming two-on-one. With a tired McDonagh leaning, Quenneville was able to slide a pass across to a cutting Blandisi, who in one motion turned and beat Raanta with a beautiful backhand deke tuck job with Grabner watching at 4:05.

An excited Blandisi punched the glass to cheers. He was selected as the game’s first star with Schneider second and Quenneville third. In what’s been a trying season, it was a feel good win for the Devils, who got the better of their closest rivals.

For the Rangers, there’s no time for rest. They are back at it tomorrow night in the second of a back-to-back when they host the desperate Islanders at MSG in a Rivalry showdown on NBCSN at 8 PM. I really don’t care about tonight’s loss. I don’t care about the other eight games. I care about this one game. The Islanders have owned the Rangers for seemingly ever. It would be nice to get a win in regulation and further hurt their playoff chances.

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A happy bunch of Devils celebrate Joseph Blandisi’s overtime winner at the glass by an excited fan. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Devils.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Joseph Blandisi, Devils (OT winner on nice backhand deke-3rd of season, assist, 2 shots, +1 in 24 shifts-15:15)

2nd Star-John Quenneville, Devils (1st career NHL goal, great feed on Blandisi’s OT winner, 2 shots, +1 in 24 shifts-15:33)

1st Star-Cory Schneider, Devils (38 saves including 16/17 in busy 3rd)

Notes: Shots were 40-29 Rangers who fell to 17-18-3 when out-shooting the opponent. They’re 27-6-1 when out-shot and 1-0-0 in even shots. … The Rangers scored their 91st goal in the third. They have outscored opponents 91-65 in third periods. … Total attempts were 68-41 Rangers. But none of the fancy stats including beloved Corsi mattered. The Devils prevailed on the scoreboard by competing hard and getting clutch performances from Schneider and their kids. … Andy Greene blocked 6 shots. Devils totaled 11. The Rangers only blocked six shots. Key Stat: Missed Shots NYR-17 NJD-6. … Even face-offs favored the Blueshirts by a lot 43-27 with Lindberg a dominant 10-and-3 in 12:03 (19 shifts). Zajac was the Devils’ best going 13-and-14. … Mika Zibanejad tied with Hall for the lead in shots with eight.

Highlight Of Game: Quenneville to Blandisi for the OT winner:

Schneider on beating the Rangers:

Blandisi on the chemistry he has with Quenneville:

Nash discusses his goal in loss:

Raanta talks about the overtime loss and game-winner:

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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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