A Devilish Night: Awful second period dooms Rangers in bad loss to Hudson rival Devils, Shesterkin chased for five goals, Kreider gets 42nd in garbage time

If they were to take anything from last night’s game, the message is simple. Don’t do it again. For the third time in less than two weeks, the Rangers were pummeled on the road by a good offense.

The end result was a brutal 7-4 loss to the Hudson rival Devils before a packed house in Newark. Astonishingly, the Rangers led 2-0 after the first before a five-goal Devils explosion turned the game around.

They chased Igor Shesterkin by scoring five consecutive times in a forgettable second period. It was a complete meltdown. The Devils scored four goals over a 5:01 span to reverse course. They would add a fifth later following a successful coach’s challenge by Gerard Gallant for offside that wiped out a Tomas Tatar power play goal.

Even though Ryan Strome was credited with his 15th goal on an Artemi Panarin long shot at 3:46 of the third to cut the deficit to 5-3, things didn’t improve. A ridiculous Strome unsportsmanlike conduct penalty allowed Jack Hughes to restore a three-goal Devils lead with 10:24 left.

The 20-year old superstar would then embarrass both Ryan Lindgren and Ryan Reaves by making a brilliant move and backhand shot past Georgiev over a minute later to make it 7-3. It was a mesmerizing goal by Hughes, who got numbers 20 and 21 in his 43rd game. He’s up to 49 points. The 20th gave him his 100th career NHL point.

The only positive if you can call it that was Chris Kreider. Already with an assist on a Mika Zibanejad goal back in the first, he put in a rebound for his 42nd goal with 5:04 left in regulation. It was Kreider’s league-leading 22nd power play goal. Even in a blowout loss, he had a goal and assist to move his point total to 58. He needs two to hit 60.

There isn’t much to say. The game went from looking promising thanks to a good start to a total abomination. On a strong shift from Alexis Lafreniere, he recovered a loose puck down low to get it over for a Kreider shot off Nico Daws right to Zibanejad for an easy rebound goal at 7:10.

The Zibanejad tally was his 26th. He has four goals over the last five games. With a goal and helper in an otherwise nightmarish game, he’s up to 65 points in 64 games. That’s 10 away from his career high of 75 set in the Covid shortened ’19-20 season. He was brilliant that year going 41-34-75 in 57 games. However, he’s a more complete player now. The next point will be his 500th. Maybe it’ll come against Pittsburgh in a win this Friday.

It was the fourth game in a row Lafreniere recorded an assist. The longest streak of his career. Unfortunately, the good feeling wouldn’t last. For reasons only known to Gallant, he cut down to three lines in the third. Lafreniere missed a couple of shifts along with Dryden Hunt and Reaves. All three were singled out despite other players playing just as poorly.

Even worse, they were victimized on the Hughes highlight reel goal after just returning. Talk about a rude welcome back. Hughes can do that to anyone. He’s such an explosive player that it’s scary how good he already is. He doesn’t turn 21 until after the season on May 14. A big yikes for the rest of the league.

During a Zibanejad penalty he was serving for hi-sticking Jonas Siegenthaler, Andrew Copp was sent out with Barclay Goodrow. Wearing number the number 18 due to number 9 being unavailable, he looked good.

On the penalty kill, a good read led to a shorthanded chance. He passed across for an open Goodrow whose bid was denied by Daws. Copp would later set up two Ranger goals and win eight of 15 face-offs. That included one offensive draw that resulted in an Adam Fox goal following the successful kill. He was on in place of Lafreniere to win the face-off.

That was simply a smart decision from Gallant. He didn’t have a good night. But utilizing Copp for key draws is wise. Especially on a team that likes to use face-off plays to create offense. Copp proved why he was so coveted by Chris Drury on Monday’s deadline. He wasn’t a disappointment on Tuesday. He played mostly on the third line with Filip Chytil and Hunt. Eventually, Gallant changed things up in the third.

Even though they were ahead by two, there were some scratchy decisions that made you wonder about the team mindset. There were a couple of times where players got caught causing great Devils opportunities. The best one came when Yegor Sharangovich was in off a three-on-one. Rather than shoot, he passed. They wound up with nothing.

There were a couple of other dangerous chances that either Shesterkin stopped or were just missed by the Devils. This was a point coach Lindy Ruff emphasized to his team between periods. He even told reporters he showed his players video. They altered their strategy. It definitely worked.

The Rangers could’ve been up by more. The aggressive pinching of Fox, Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller created chances. But they couldn’t cash in. That included newcomer Tyler Motte, who had four shots while wearing his usual number 64 in his Rangers debut.

Even more notable, they started the second period by getting the first five shots on Daws. But he was sharp. If he hadn’t been, we could be talking about a very different game entirely. Credit the rookie netminder for giving his team a chance at the comeback.

The Devils couldn’t do anything early on in the second. They went without a shot for over seven minutes. However, they took advantage of a Fox turnover to finally get on the scoreboard. Following the miscue, Jesper Bratt passed over for a Ryan Graves shot from the left circle that Shesterkin didn’t have full control of. Tomas Tatar poked at it until Shesterkin lost the puck.

The goal was credited to Graves at 7:12. Suddenly with momentum off a rare Shesterkin mistake, it was the Devils who quickly went to work and tied the game. On a good Andreas Johnsson forecheck, he passed back for a P.K. Subban one-timer that went in through traffic for his fifth at 8:30. Ty Smith added a secondary assist.

It didn’t get any better. Off some more Devils’ pressure, Fox tried to clear a puck. Instead, it was a giveaway at the blue line. Graves took the gift and fired it towards the net with the puck going right to rookie Dawson Mercer, who put home his 16th for the Devils’ third goal over 5:28.

More poor play allowed Tatar to cash his 12th from Damon Severson and Bratt on the next shift. The goal came only 33 seconds following Tatar’s to make it four straight Devils’ goals. On the play, the third pair of Patrik Nemeth and former Flyer Justin Braun were caught out. It would happen again late in the period.

Before that occurred, a very bad Reaves slashing minor on Mason Geertsen put the Devils on the power play. It looked like Bratt scored just 20 seconds into the man-advantage. But the replay correctly showed that the Devils were offside to negate the goal. A successful challenge by Gallant.

Even following the penalty kill, they couldn’t grab any momentum. Instead, the Devils spent an extensive shift in the Rangers’ end. Both Braun and Nemeth were exhausted. They couldn’t get off the ice due to the long change. With no forward able to dump the puck in deep, it left them vulnerable.

A quick counter by the Devils led to the fifth goal of the period. Dougie Hamilton pushed the puck up for Nico Hischier. He fed Sharangovich in the slot. With Braun back pedaling, Sharangovich used him as a screen to beat a shaky Shesterkin short side blocker for his 16th at 18:07.

The way the Rangers played, I probably would’ve given Shesterkin the hook after the Devils’ fourth consecutive goal. He wasn’t tracking the puck well. Partially due to the lack of attention to details by the skaters. They were lackadaisical. Against Carolina, they got away with it due to Georgiev. Not so fast versus the more explosive Devils offense.

When the third began, Georgiev was finally in for Shesterkin, who gave up five goals on 24 shots in 40 minutes. Such an ugly game really hurts his statistics. He still has a .936 save percentage. A remarkable number in today’s game. The GAA is up to 2.14. Jacob Markstrom also lost tonight. It’s a two horse race for the Vezina.

If you were looking for a response, the Blueshirts tried to give it to you. On a good shift by the second line, Ryan Lindgren moved the puck over to Panarin who filled in up top. Rather than pass, he decided to shoot the puck. It looked like his goal with Goodrow screening Daws in front. But after looking at a few replays, Strome indeed was able to get his stick on it for his 15th at 3:46.

That made it 5-3. Considering everything we’ve seen from this team, they’ve proven capable of coming back. They’ve won 20 games in come from behind fashion. It’s their calling guard. They didn’t give up.

Chytil got a step on the Devils to break in on Daws. But he was on his backhand. He did get a tricky shot on Daws, who was able to shut down the five-hole. That was a big save. He would create another chance later. But fired wide. That’s the kind of year he’s had.

With almost eight minutes played, Panarin tried to put a move on Sharangovich in the neutral zone. Instead, he got belted. Even though teammates reacted to Panarin going down, it was just incidental. He skated into Sharangovich who was just there. Strome lost his cool and took an unsportsmanlike conduct minor. Totally unnecessary.

The latest Ryan Strome [a bad penalty that serves no purpose] really was the final nail in the coffin. Not before the penalty kill got a great shorthanded chance. The Devils have given up many shorthanded goals this season. On a Hischier giveaway, Zibanejad and Kreider came in two-on-one. Too much passing resulted in Kreider having an errant pass for Zibanejad trap both forwards.

Hughes and Hischier flew up the ice for a give and go that saw Hughes get an easy put away at 9:36. Instead of possibly 5-4 and a game, it was 6-3 Devils. All due to the over passing from the two Rangers you’d want to see in that exact situation. East/West doesn’t work in the playoffs. They better learn it fast.

Following Hughes’ power play goal, Gallant took the handcuffs off Lafreniere, Hunt and Reaves. He stuck all three out for a disastrous shift. Never mind I don’t think they’ve played together once. It was a ridiculous decision from a coach who’s done so much right.

After Fox missed wide on a shot, here came the Devils. Like the roadrunner in Looney Tunes, they quickly transitioned up ice. Subban and Sharangovich got the puck to a flying Hughes, who easily gained the Ranger zone and faked both Lindgren and Reaves out before whizzing a backhand over Georgiev to put it out of reach. A fantastic play by a sensational player.

For as much crap as Nemeth and Braun (wore number 61) took, the top pair of Lindgren and Fox were on for three goals against. Miller and Trouba were on for two. This was a total team effort. Most of the forwards didn’t back check. The defense backed up. It was hideous. When you play that poorly, the result is predictable.

In garbage time, Kreider was able to get another power play goal. With Jimmy Vesey off for hooking, a Fox point shot was deflected by Copp off Daws. The rebound came right to Kreider, who buried it for his 42nd goal. He leads the NHL with 22 power play goals. What a season for Kreider.

While that man-advantage took place, Sam Rosen was sure to note that Panarin wasn’t on the top unit. There were five and a half minutes left. It didn’t matter. However, Panarin went to the locker room. My guess is it was precautionary. There was no reason to keep playing him after the collision with Sharangovich. It was his own fault. Hopefully, he’ll be okay for Friday’s big game against the Pens.

Speaking of the Pens, they rolled the Blue Jackets 6-1 to move back into second place. They’re up to 87 points with 18 games left. The Rangers have 85 also with 18 to go. They hold the first tiebreaker with 34 regulation wins. It’s going to come down to the remaining three meetings. Two coming up with the third in April.

The Hurricanes ended their losing streak by defeating the suddenly slumping Lightning 3-2. Carolina is up to 90 points with 19 remaining. Their 36 regulation wins lead the Eastern Conference.

As for what happened in Newark, I think the Rangers will turn the page. Having the next two days off should help. They can use some practice time. That also may help the new players get better acquainted. It’s never easy to find chemistry right away in a new system. That point must be emphasized to the Debbie Downers.

There’s no reason to panic. Has the recent play leveled off. Absolutely. With stinkers in Minnesota, St. Louis, Carolina and New Jersey, they need to tighten things up. Get back to how they played against the Islanders and Lightning.

The Devils also hadn’t beaten the Rangers in a while. They were due. Let this be a lesson to our players. Get it into gear Friday for Pittsburgh at MSG.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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