It was Showtime at The Prudential Center in Newark. On Thursday night, Patrick Kane reminded people why he was acquired. The 34-year old American star had an impact in the Rangers’ 5-1 win over the Devils to take Game Two before a sold-out crowd.
Feeling he had more to give between days off, the former Blackhawks three-time Stanley Cup winner delivered to help put the Rangers up two games to none on a visibly frustrated Devils. Kane assisted on two more Chris Kreider power play goals and then scored a beauty in the third period to put the game away.
After falling behind on an Erik Haula power play goal during a well played first period, the Rangers responded with a dominant second period. They would go on to outscore their close Hudson rival three-zip in what proved to be a pivotal middle stanza.
The Devils did some good things in the game’s first 20 minutes. They were more desperate. With coach Lindy Ruff inserting both Yegor Sharangovich and Brendan Smith into the lineup that saw adjustments to all four of their lines and two defensive pairs, they came out with more aggression.
They finished checks. It was predictably more physical. Exactly what you’d expect for a second game. But despite bringing more to the table, they could only get one past Igor Shesterkin. That came when, during a power play with Niko Mikkola off for cross-checking Nathan Bastian, Ruff decided to have Mike McLeod play on the power play with 20 seconds left in the five-on-four.
He then drove to the net where he got a piece of an Ondrej Palat shot to create a rebound. That allowed Haula to score his first of the series from directly in front with Adam Fox outnumbered.
Prior to that goal from the gritty Haula, who was one of the best players for the red and black, Jacob Trouba delivered an early hit on Devils captain Nico Hischier during the game’s first shift. On a play behind the net, it was the Rangers captain who gave Hischier a clean shoulder check. Hischier got back up and kept playing.
Trouba had an impact finishing with a game high eight hits. Three came in the first. He and partner K’Andre Miller have played well thus far. It’s Trouba, who’s the more steadier player. He handles the gritty stuff while Miller uses his skating and long reach.
When they attacked the Rangers net, the Devils had some shots on Shesterkin, who again looked locked in. But they didn’t find many rebounds. They also missed the net a lot. Both teams actually each had 20 shots that missed completely. The problem for the Devils is that they didn’t score at five-on-five. Unlike Game One, when they had a decided edge, they were out-shot 19-17 at full strength.
Inserted to add some physicality, Smith played on the third pair with Damon Severson. He took an unnecessary roughing minor on Tyler Motte to put the Rangers on their first power play.
Although they didn’t connect, the Rangers were dangerous. The best chance came when Artemi Panarin was all set up for a one-timer from the left circle. The shot looked to deflect off Vitek Vanecek and then the crossbar. Mika Zibanejad had a strong one-timer from the right side denied by Vanecek, who certainly made enough big saves. He was particularly sharp in stopping all 14 Rangers shots a busy first.
That first man-advantage should’ve been a warning to the Devils to stay out of the penalty box. They never got the message. Instead, they paid the price for undisciplined penalties in the offensive zone.
When there was play at even strength, the line of Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, and Kaapo Kakko spent some time in the Devils zone. They continue to work hard by winning board battles. Lafreniere wasn’t shy about throwing his weight around. He had a nice hit on Dougie Hamilton, who so far has been shut out in two games. He only had one shot on goal and was minus-two.
Following a Shesterkin save on Haula on the first Devils power play, he won a draw against Barclay Goodrow. Palat and Severson played catch. Then Palat found room to get off a wrist shot that McLeod deflected for a rebound. Haula pounced on the loose puck to give the Devils the lead at 11:44.
With the home crowd into it, they looked for more. However, Hamilton missed wide, and Meier was stopped by Shesterkin.
The Rangers responded with a strong shift from the first line. Vanecek made good stops on Kreider twice and then Panarin. He was much better in this game despite the final stat line.
Hughes tested Shesterkin in transition. He stood tall. On another effective shift by the third line, Lafreniere had the puck in the slot. But he fired high over the top.
As the period was wound down, Bastian took an unnecessary penalty in the offensive zone when he boarded Ryan Lindgren from behind with 42 seconds left. As the period ended with a Zibanejad tip-in try missing, he got into a scrum with John Marino. During it, Adam Fox came over to play peacemaker. Instead, they called him for a tacky, roughing minor with no time remaining. He couldn’t believe the call. No one could.
Instead of remaining on the power play to start the second period, the Rangers instead played four-on-four until Bastian’s penalty expired. Early on, Hughes got two chances but was unable to score. Jesper Bratt also missed.
A few minutes later, it was Shesterkin who made the big save to deny Hughes. In transition where he’s most dangerous, Hughes gained the Rangers blue line easily. He then cut in and fired a laser ticketed for the upper portion of the net. But a quick reacting Shesterkin got his glove up to keep it out. That save swung the momentum. If Hughes scores there, the Devils are up 2-0. Who knows what happens.
On the next shift, the Rangers drew even. Following a Kevin Bahl turnover, Fox played catch with Ryan Lindgren. He then made a nice drop for Vladimir Tarasenko. He drove a wicked wrist shot past a screened Vanecek high glove to tie the game at 5:53. Vincent Trocheck took Vanecek’s eyes away. That made it two goals in two games for Tarasenko. He’s certainly impressed Gerard Gallant.
On the following shift, Kakko had two chances. After a backhand went wide, he let go of a wrist shot from out that Vanecek held. That showed confidence. He’s definitely starting to get it. The more aggressive approach by a player who’s been the butt of jokes by Devils fans would later get rewarded.
Following a Lafreniere hit on Hughes that made it 2020 top pick on 2019 top pick, Ryan Graves sent a backhand wide. You could say that summed up how the game went. Especially in the second period.
With the game still tied, Panarin made a slick move to draw a slashing minor on Miles Wood, who showed frustration with the call. It was a penalty. But I definitely would agree that Panarin sold it. That penalty would prove costly.
Following an early Marino clear off the draw, the Rangers number one unit went to work. After one Kreider miss from in tight, Zibanejad worked the puck over for Kane. Having already gotten more confidence by getting a couple of shots on goal, he made a good read by taking a shot from the middle that Kreider tipped in for his third of the series at 9:57. All on the power play.
On the following shift, the Devils had some puck possession in the Rangers’ end. After a pair of hits from Trouba on Bastian, he knocked down Timo Meier without the puck to go off for interference.
However, the Devils failed miserably on the power play. In particular, the Rangers’ penalty killers were very aggressive with Hughes, who had a giveaway that led to an easy clear. Both Trocheck and Braden Schneider finished checks on him.
Hughes has found it harder in the playoffs. He was a bit more active finishing with six shots and 13 attempts but also was credited with four giveaways. That’s nine in two games.
With the Rangers up a goal, Meier lost his discipline by holding Zibanejad. That allowed them to cash in again on the man-advantage. With the Devils struggling to contain the power play, they keep leaving Kreider wide open in front. A bad recipe.
On what was a simple play where Kane received a pass from Fox, he waited until he had enough room to send a pass down low for a Kreider redirection that took a funny bounce off of Vanecek’s right arm and went in to make it 3-1 with exactly four minutes left in the period.
The puck was headed wide. But Vanecek had it go off his arm and in. It was the only bad goal he allowed. Either way, that made it three consecutive goals for the Blueshirts in a dominant second that saw them hold the Devils to five shots.
In danger of going down two games to none with the next two at MSG starting Saturday, the Devils made a strong push in the third period. They really carried most of the play.
On the first shift, Bratt had a deflection go off the goalpost just 13 seconds in. If that tip-in goes in, it’s a different game. That close to making things interesting.
After a close call from Tarasenko on the opposite end, the Devils kept coming. Following an icing, they pressed the attack. On some sustained pressure, Marino sailed a backhand wide from close distance. Bratt was then stopped twice. Shesterkin also denied a Meier tip-in.
While he was getting it done, the Rangers took their opportunities when they presented themselves. That included a good Zibanejad shot right on Vanecek.
As Ruff shortened up his bench by mixing up his lines that included an effective McLeod, the Blueshirts continued to remain patient. They countered. Both Tarasenko and Chytil missed wide on opportunities.
With the Devils taking more risks offensively by pinching their defense, they eventually got burned. On a smart defensive play by an aggressive Kane on Bratt, he stole the puck and broke in on a two-on-one.
With Marino taking away the pass, Kane calmly faked and then whipped a backhand past Vanecek top shelf for his first postseason goal as a Ranger. It was the 53rd of his career. That made it a three-goal game with 13:26 remaining. The goal was unassisted.
That really took the wind out of the Devils’ sails. They still continued to push. But you never got the sense they’d get any closer. They couldn’t. They simply were outclassed.
In what amounted to his best game of his young postseason career, Kakko put the exclamation point on the victory. He had come close earlier. This time, he took a Chytil centering feed and beat Vanecek from directly in front for his first of the series.
Kakko took punishment in this game. In a shift much earlier in the contest, he parked himself in front of a long Lafreniere turnaround shot that Vanecek handled. He took some abuse. That’s how he must play. He also made a few good defensive plays by coming back in his end. Although the media selected him as the game’s first star, I went differently. Kakko definitely deserves the credit he’s receiving.
With it now 5-1, things got a bit hectic. Fourteen seconds following Kakko’s goal, a big scrum ensued. During it, Schneider and McLeod squared off. It was a good scrap with blows landed by each.
Misconducts were handed out. Barclay Goodrow, Mikkola, Jimmy Vesey, and Tyler Motte were sent packing. On the Devils side, Bastian, Wood, Bahl, and Smith exited early. McLeod received two for roughing while Goodrow also got two for interference. That kept the teams at even strength. It didn’t last long.
Eighteen seconds later, Meier cross-checked Fox. He received the additional misconduct along with Fox, who got some extra rest for Game Three. That’s not a bad thing even if he waved off the call by Wes McCauley. He really didn’t do much. He should be fresh when the Hudson rivals face off at The Garden on Saturday night.
The game was over. Whatever happened afterward didn’t matter. When the final buzzer sounded, the Rangers came over to congratulate Shesterkin, who was all smiles.
It wasn’t like that for the Devils. They might’ve played for the final time at home. Unless they can make some big adjustments, it could be over much quicker. We’ll see what happens.
For the game’s three stars, I had to go with one defensive player who had a big effect on the game. That was Trouba. He was everywhere. You felt his physical presence through the TV screen. The other two were Kreider and Kane.
Postgame Notes: After falling behind 1-0, the Rangers scored five unanswered in the win. … With two more assists, Fox is up to six helpers in the first two games. He’s continuing to make history.
Shesterkin made 22 saves on 23 shots. He’s allowed only two goals on 49 shots so far. … Vanecek made 25 saves on 30 shots. Even though he allowed five, only one was on him. His team didn’t play well. They melted down. Undisciplined penalties and coverage issues continue to be the difference in the series… Will Lindy Ruff consider starting Akira Schmid for Game Three? He’s unproven but also is only 22.
SOG: NYR 30 (Kane/Kreider 5) NJD 23 (Hughes 6)
Total Attempts: NYR 57 NJD 59
Hits: NYR 39 (Trouba 8) NJD 39 (Meier 7)
Blocks: NYR 16 (Trouba 3) NJD 7 (Severson 3)
Giveaways: NYR 6 NJD 13 (Hughes 4)
Face-offs: NYR 26 (Chytil 5-5/Goodrow 4-4)
NJD 33 (Haula 9-5, McLeod 8-5, Hischier 12-10)