Igor Shestyorkin is congratulated by a happy Alexis Lafreniere after the rookie goalie blanked the Devils for a second consecutive game in a 4-0 Rangers shutout at 33rd and 8th. AP Photo credit New York Rangers via Getty Images
This one was over quickly. Before the second installment of the Battle Of Hudson was over 12 minutes old, Artemi Panarin put the Rangers ahead 3-0 on the Devils to essentially end the suspense early. It was a great game for the Bread Man, who became the first Blueshirt since Jaromir Jagr (’06-07) to record at least three points in seven or more games. A statistic provided by the Devils telecast on MSG-Plus.
Note: Panarin matched Jagr last season by recording nine games of three points or more.
The Rangers won again over the Devils this time by a score of 4-0 at Madison Square Garden. There are still two games left this weekend in the Hudson rivalry. It was Igor Shestyorkin, who picked up his second straight shutout by stopping all 16 Devils shots for another win. Although he didn’t have to work that hard, he did turn down a Jack Hughes one-on-one bid in the second period when the Rangers got sloppy. That along with a good save on Miles Wood late in the third period were the best stops en route to blanking the Devils again.
I believe it’s up to 172 minutes since the Devils last scored on Shestyorkin. In fact, he’s only allowed one goal on the last 76 shots against New Jersey. That dates back to Mar. 4 when he made 32 saves on 33 shots in a game he won despite having to come out for a few minutes. If you can’t score, you can’t win. Such is the hard knock life for the Jersey side of the rivalry. It has to be extremely frustrating for them and their fans. The Devils skated without Jesper Bratt, who missed the rematch with an injury. Marian Studenic took his place.
Basically, the Devils skated without their co-leading scorers with injuries to Bratt and Pavel Zacha sidelining them. Nico Hischier played his second consecutive game after missing time due to a broken orbital bone he sustained by taking a dangerous shot to the eye. He centered a second line of Wood and Andreas Johnsson. Hughes anchored rookies Janne Kuokkanen and Yegor Sharangovich. They were no match for Shestyorkin and a more disciplined Rangers defense.
It was the attention to detail that led to all three first period goals for the guys wearing the alternate Statue Of Liberty reversible jerseys on 33rd and 8th. Playing stronger in front of their number one goalie, the Blueshirts turned defense into offense against a struggling opponent who looked out of sorts during a lopsided opening period.
The scoring got started before the contest was a minute old. On a good play started by who else but Panarin by keeping the puck in, Colin Blackwell and Mika Zibanejad combined to find a wide open Jacob Trouba up top for a good shot that beat Mackenzie Blackwood just 47 seconds in. It was Trouba’s second. A deserving reward for a hard-nosed defensive defenseman, who was coming off a strong game on Tuesday.
Pavel Buchnevich took a hi-sticking minor penalty when he got his stick up on Mikhail Maltsev less than a minute later. But like a broken record, the Devils power play couldn’t get much done against the top five rated Rangers’ penalty kill. In three chances, the Devils only managed one shot on Shestyorkin. Part of the issue was they took too long to set up. With our active penalty killers taking the middle away along with shooting options including for key trigger Ty Smith, it made it impossible. It was Zibanejad who continued his strong play down a man by pressuring the points and getting pucks out. Buchnevich was out for the final two kills.
It also helps to have a good puck moving goalie like Shestyorkin, who’s the opposite of Henrik Lundqvist. This isn’t a knock on the future Hall of Famer, who sadly announced he won’t return to the Caps this season after not being cleared. It’s just a fact that aggressive netminders who come out and make smart decisions with the puck help out a penalty kill tremendously. That includes the defense at even strength. Shestyorkin is like an extra D. I truly believe one day, he could make NHL history and score an empty net goal. I’m not alone in this thinking. My Dad agrees. It’s a good skill to have.
Following some more good defensive play, the Rangers went on the offensive to pull ahead by two. On some more splendid work from Panarin, Adam Fox passed the puck to him. With a couple of Devils going to him, he found an isolated Ryan Lindgren at an open point for a wrist shot that went by Blackwood for his first of the season at 6:39. Lindgren had gone 97 games without a goal dating back to Nov. 10, 2019 versus Florida. He’s now up to two career NHL goals in 108 games. Most importantly, Lindgren is a plus-23 while forming the steady top pair with Fox, who recorded an assist giving him 35 to pace all NHL defensemen.
With the game played largely at five-on-five minus any fights, it was advantage Rangers. Their best players dominated the play. After a good save from Shestyorkin on one end, out came the Blueshirts in transition for a quick hitter with Panarin finishing off a beautiful pass from Ryan Strome to convert on a two-on-one at the 12-minute mark. Blackwell led Strome into the Devil zone. With the Devils in scramble mode, they somehow left Panarin alone for his second goal in two games. It was his number 14 of the season.
Vitaly Kravtsov slashed new Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, who was in on Shestyorkin to negate a scoring chance with under three minutes left in the first. The Rangers went back to work on the penalty kill. Like the Groundhog seeing his shadow, the Devils did absolutely nothing with the power play. If you can take away Smith on the point and close out Hughes, the Devils don’t have enough firepower to threaten you with. Hughes did have a shot hit the far goalpost. One of two posts they hit. But the puck wasn’t going in for them.
Once the Kravtsov penalty expired, the Rangers were all too happy to skate the puck in their own zone and let time wind down up three. They led in shots 10-3. It easily could’ve been more as far as goals. That’s how badly outplayed the Devils were. You almost felt sorry for them. Well, I did for Blackwood. Even after a promising start to the second where his team finally showed some urgency, he faced a ton of shots.
You knew the Devils would come out much harder. More desperate, they finally started to generate chances on Shestyorkin. But he didn’t cooperate. With his team more lackadaisical for the first half of the second period, he handled the pressure well to turn away a different Devils team. Even with both Trouba and K’Andre Miller napping following a bad turnover right to Hughes, Shestyorkin was there to stone the Devils’ second-year center point blank. He made a great move around a flat-footed Miller, but was denied by Shestyorkin.
Eventually, the Rangers got the cobwebs out and began to steady their play. They could’ve made it easier on themselves had they converted a rare power play with Mike McLeod off for slashing Zibanejad. Instead, they showed no urgency by not even doing anything with it. They got no setup time and let the Devils easily take care of it. It was the only disappointing part of the game. They went 0-for-2 on the power play.
Despite the Devils putting nine shots on Shestyorkin, he was equal to the task. On the flip side, the Rangers started to tilt the ice in the second half of the period. It finally paid off when the cohesive second line struck again. This was a strange goal. Blackwell fired a shot way wide that the puck took a funny carom off the back boards. A hesitant Blackwood didn’t know what to do due to the ridiculous designated area. That allowed Strome to retrieve the loose puck and move it across for a Panarin goal in front. Even he looked shocked that he scored. That’s the kind of game it was.
On the scoring play, Blackwell recorded his third assist. It is the first time in his brief NHL career that he’s recorded three points. All assists. Blackwell is the biggest overachiever on the Rangers. He went from a mere afterthought to becoming a trusted top nine forward who has a nice role. For now, he’s on that second line, plays power play and can play penalty kill. David Quinn sometimes moves him around. He’s interchangeable. Blackwell is now up to 20 points (12-8-20) in 34 games. He’s 28 and deserves a raise. Will it be with the Rangers or another team?
At 4-0 up, they really toyed with their overwhelmed opponent. It really could’ve been worse. To think that the Devils controlled the first part of the second. It was the Blueshirts who wound up taking 17 shots on Blackwood, who did as good as he could. I know how that might sound for Hasan and the Devils side. But what about that sprawling save he made to rob one of our players of a sure goal. He also denied Kevin Rooney and Brett Howden in breakaways. Sad that those guys got in.
The only thing left to do in the third was see if the obvious would happen. It honestly felt like it would. Given the Devils’ offensive issues minus two of their top six players, you just felt it. The closest they came was a great setup for P.K. Subban, whose one-timer beat Shestyorkin but clanged off the crossbar and stayed out. That summed it up.
Kravtsov thought he had his first NHL goal. On with Zibanejad and Buchnevich, he took a Buchnevich pass and patiently waited before surprising Blackwood with a good wrist shot for an apparent goal. However, Lindy Ruff correctly challenged for offside due to Zibanejad just being ahead of Buchnevich when he gained the Devils zone. It might have been negated, but you couldn’t wipe the smile off Kravtsov’s face on the bench. He’s very even keel and it shows in his overall play. Nothing bothers him. So he didn’t get the goal. He nearly got it on a nice move and shot which Blackwood made a good save on. It’ll come eventually.
In the third, Quinn tinkered with his lines. He hardly played Panarin because there was no reason to. Panarin was unselfish twice when he could’ve gone for the hat trick. He once tried to feed Strome for a goal and just missed connection with Chris Kreider, who needs one desperately. It was the kind of unselfish play we’ve come to expect from the Bread Man. He knows what matters.
With the Islanders not cooperating by losing to the Bruins 4-1 in an awful game where Taylor Hall got his first with Boston, the Rangers remain four out with 13 left. All they can do is win their games and hope the last two games of the season versus those Bruins have meaning. Take care of business. If they do, I believe it’ll go down to the wire.
There isn’t anything else to add. When the team wins easily, there’s nothing to complain about. I see the work habits of Kravtsov, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko getting better. They all are evolving. Filip Chytil had his three assist streak snapped. He still needs to improve on his board play. A turnover resulted in a Devils opportunity. Libor Hajek continues to improve while playing with Brendan Smith.
Right now, the Rangers are an exciting team headed in the right direction. That’s all you can ask. They took care of the soft call on Kreider for being stronger than Will Butcher late. That guaranteed a second shutout in a row for Shestyorkin, who’s 8-2-2 since Mar. 2. He’ll most certainly get the next start on Saturday afternoon.
THREE STARS OF GAME
3rd 🌟 Igor Shestyorkin, NYR (16 saves for 2nd career shutout, 43 of 43 stopped in consecutive shutouts vs Devils)
2nd 🌟 Colin Blackwell, NYR (3 🍎, +4 in 13:00)
1st 🌟 Artemi Panarin, NYR (2-1-3 for #’s 14 & 15 with 31st 🍎, +4 in 18:33)