Hamilton’s overtime winner gives Devils life with a 2-1 road victory over Rangers to take Game Three, Schmid earns first win in postseason debut, NYR lead series 2-1

It’s now a series. Dougie Hamilton’s goal at 11:36 in overtime gave the Devils a badly needed 2-1 win over the Rangers in Game Three before a sellout crowd of 18,006 at Madison Square Garden.

On a great play by a rushing Jesper Bratt, he drew two Rangers to get the puck over for a wide open Hamilton, who fired home the overtime winner past Igor Shesterkin to silence the home fans. Bratt was a factor picking up two assists for his first two points of the first round series.

So was Hamilton. Shutdown in the first two games, the Devils’ most dangerous weapon from the blue line set up a tying Jack Hughes power play goal and got his first of the series with 8:24 remaining in the first overtime.

While he earned the game’s first star, the real heroics were provided by Game Three starter Akira Schmid. Making his postseason debut, the 22-year old rookie netminder was superb in making 35 saves on 36 shots to post his first win of the playoffs.

Following the morning skate where he was the first goalie off, the anticipation was that coach Lindy Ruff would go to Schmid. Of course, he kept things quiet to keep the press guessing. However, it was obvious that after the Rangers’ second straight 5-1 win, there would be a change in the net.

Prior to the game, it was revealed that Schmid would get the nod. A former fifth round pick in 2018, the Swiss goalie had a good rookie year. In 18 appearances, he went 9-5-2 with a 2.13 GAA, .922 save percentage and one shutout. He only had 24 games (18 starts) of NHL experience. However, the poise that he plays with always made him an option.

The game started ominously for the Rangers. On an early chance from Bratt after he got behind K’Andre Miller, Igor Shesterkin stopped him 22 seconds in. But Patrick Kane hooked Bratt to hand the Devils an early power play.

They continued to struggle on the five-on-four. Hughes got the only shot on Shesterkin, who made the save. On a successful penalty kill, the Blueshirts remained aggressive by taking the body on Hughes. That kept the Devils off the scoreboard.

After the power play expired, Shesterkin made a stop on Tomas Tatar to get a whistle. In the biggest game of their season, Ruff adjusted his lineup. Miles Wood was replaced by Curtis Lazar on the fourth line. Jonas Siegenthaler was back in on the first pair with Brendan Smith out.

There were also changes to the lines, including Ondrej Palat with Hughes and Haula on the second line. Timo Meier moved up to the top line alongside Hischier and Bratt.

Rangers coach Gerard Gallant made no changes. He didn’t have to. The lines remained intact with the D pairs.

If there was a noticeable difference in the first period, it was the Devils’ ability to get in transition. They found more time and space to play their speed game. They also defended the net much better than the first two games. That made for a closely fought opening period. One the Devils led in shots 12-11.

Following two saves from Shesterkin on Bratt and Hischier, Mike McLeod took a bad offensive zone penalty when he boarded Ryan Lindgren from behind. That sent the Rangers to their first power play.

On it, Mika Zibanejad got the best two scoring chances. Twice, he was set up in the slot for one-timers. Both were denied by a sharp Schmid. Those saves along with one on a long Alexis Lafreniere shot got him into the game.

With the action more fast-paced, each team traded chances. On one side, Patrick Kane tested Schmid, who was up to the challenge. On the opposite end, Shesterkin stopped Damon Severson.

There was more hitting as well from the red and black. The Devils finished with 31 hits, including a team high six from Siegenthaler. The Rangers were credited with 23. Jacob Trouba paced them with seven. He was again a tower of strength on defense.

Another difference was the Devils’ willingness to sacrifice their bodies. They blocked 17 shots. No player had more than two. But it was a team effort. The Rangers had 19 blocks. Game Three was more evenly fought.

The best opportunity went to the Rangers. A lead pass for Artemi Panarin sent him in on a mini-break. One on one with Schmid, he sent his high shot wide. He felt some back pressure, which might’ve caused him to fire quicker. That was enough to keep it scoreless.

After a tough save by Shesterkin on a Meier backhand, Adam Fox blocked a Ryan Graves attempt. With under five minutes left, a Siegenthaler turnover allowed the Rangers’ checking line to get two shots. Schmid denied both Tyler Motte and Jimmy Vesey. He also made a long stop on Fox.

Schmid would make stops on Fox and Kane late in the period. Shesterkin’s best save was off a Meier rebound when he turned away Hischier on a tough angle. He simply closed everything up.

For the first time in the series, there was no scoring in a period. A welcome change for the Devils. They played a good road period. By being more aggressive, they looked like a team that had a great season. That was an indication that the game would be tougher to get.

Things picked up in the second period. After the refs missed a Barclay Goodrow elbow to Meier, who stayed down for a couple of minutes, Palat forced a back pass that went right to Kane. The turnover allowed Kane to move the puck for Zibanejad. He got it up for Kreider, who beat Schmid high short side for the game’s first goal at 3:39.

The goal put Kreider in the record books. By scoring his fifth goal in the first three games, he became the first Ranger to ever do that to start a postseason. Everything he does is no longer a surprise. He’s been their best forward. One day, we might see number 20 hang from the Garden rafters.

With a secondary assist, that gave Kane five points. He’s certainly raised his level. He was again good for the second consecutive game.

Before the goal, the Devils bench was unhappy. That was due to Zibanejad getting away with a slash that helped lead to the ice breaker. The officiating was bad. They had a few misses that went against both sides. Considering what took place in Los Angeles on early Saturday, there’s a lot to be said about the refs and linesmen.

Up one, the Blueshirts got a second straight power play when Ryan Graves took down Vincent Trocheck for interference. However, the top unit fired blanks. Zibanejad missed twice, and so did Panarin. The Devils were more aggressive up top, taking away Fox. He wasn’t allowed to get to the middle. That adjustment allowed them to kill all five Rangers power plays.

As the second moved on, Trouba found himself open for a shot that he sent wide. That was an issue for our shooters. There were opportunities to get the second goal on Schmid. But many shots never reached the target.

Following a Meier hit, Goodrow took down Meier and tackled him. Outside of a Hamilton missile that hit the crossbar, the Devils didn’t do enough with their second man-advantage.

Shesterkin wasn’t that busy in the period. However, he did make saves on both Hamilton and Meier, who both were much more visible. The latter was a nuisance.

During a scrum, Braden Schneider gave him a shot. But as he was going down, Meier intentionally threw himself on top of Shesterkin. He reacted by giving Meier a shot. With things escalating, Panarin went after the much bigger Kevin Bahl. It was shocking. Somehow, Meier avoided a goalie interference penalty. Instead, the Devils somehow got a power play out of that fracas.

The miss on Meier proved costly. With Bratt and Hamilton able to find an open Hughes in the left circle, he beat Shesterkin with a perfect shot short side to tie the score at 10:37 on the five-on-four. It was his second of the playoffs.

After a Shesterkin save on a Hischier deflection, the Devils didn’t do much offensively. Instead, they took undisciplined penalties. Bratt took down Alexis Lafreniere in the offensive zone to put the Rangers back on the power play.

Following a Kreider turnover that allowed the Devils to clear down, the number one unit got three shots. However, Schmid remained calm by stopping Panarin and then Zibanejad twice. Those timely saves made a difference.

Meier took an interference minor when he knocked down Trouba in the offensive zone. After nothing from the top unit, out came the second unit. They came very close to grabbing back the lead.

Trouba sent a shot wide. Lafreniere just missed with a hard slap shot as the power play expired. Schmid was down. If that hits the net, the Rangers go ahead with under a minute left in the period.

Instead, the game remained tied at one headed to the locker room. The Rangers held an 11-6 edge in shots yet couldn’t come out with a lead. It felt like a missed opportunity.

The third period was more conservatively played. Neither team got much going. There was more tight checking. That led to not as much room to create. There were hitting and blocked shots.

Schmid made early stops on Filip Chytil and Niko Mikkola. Both sides finished checks. Following a Schmid save on Fox from distance, Graves had a big block on Zibanejad. It was his defense that helped the Devils out. He’d later make a game saver in sudden death.

One of the best chances came when Tarasenko was wide open. But his shot from the left circle went high and wide. That basically summed up the game for the Rangers. They didn’t bury their chances.

On a good forecheck from Lafreniere, Chytil, and Kakko, Trouba had a great look. However, he once again fired wide. That line was effective at five-on-five. They cycled the puck well to create opportunities. It feels like they’re getting close to breaking out.

Bratt would get a good chance from point blank range. Playing his best game of the series, he tested Shesterkin in tight but was denied.

Almost all the Rangers’ six shots came during the first half. That included a Motte bid that Schmid stood firm on.

The Devils were able to use their speed to get opportunities. After Lafreniere missed on a backhand attempt, Hischier won an offensive draw for a point shot that Bratt deflected wide. Shesterkin then shut down Meier. He’d also deny Hughes on the following shift.

With exactly six minutes left in regulation, Graves got his stick up on Kane to put the Rangers on their fifth power play. Surely, they’d make the Devils pay.

Remarkably, Panarin had two unbelievable scoring chances from primary areas to give the Rangers the lead. On the first one, he was wide open in the middle but fired wide. Then, Panarin was set up in the left circle for another rocket. But his one-timer missed high and wide, leaving him shaking his head in disbelief.

Chytil had a chance on the latter part. But his tip-in went over the net. Rinse. Repeat. The Rangers were the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Had they converted on one of these chances, we could be talking about a potential sweep.

The final four minutes were played so cautiously that neither team got a shot. Nobody wanted to make a mistake. That was clearly obvious on the Devils’ side. They really played it safe and took their chances in overtime.

In sudden death, the tempo was faster. Both teams went for it. The Blueshirts got the first three shots of overtime. Once again, Schmid didn’t seem rattled. He stopped Trocheck, Tarasenko, and Schneider, who showed off his strong skating.

Schmid would also deny Kane during an early shift. Kane always turns it up in OT. He’s been a Stanley Cup hero and ended three series, including the Blackhawks’ first of three Cups.

As it went on, the Devils began to find their legs. They used their strong transition to generate opportunities. Shesterkin denied both Meier and then Bratt. Bratt would make another bid, but be denied.

On what was a close call, a long shot came towards Kakko for a tricky rebound. But his backhand was stopped by Schmid. He’d later deny Tarasenko. Although he didn’t score like the first two games, he was quite good.

Zibanejad had Kreider for the possible winner on a two-on-one. But at the very last moment, a diving Graves got his stick on the puck to break it up. If he doesn’t make that defensive play, it’s likely Kreider’s sixth in three games. Instead, he made a game saving play that also saved the Devils season.

The Rangers had another great chance to win it due to Lafreniere. On a very active shift, he tested Schmid twice with dangerous shots. It looked like he had jump throughout. He again was noticeable by finishing checks and defending hard. He stopped Hughes once. It feels like Lafreniere could be on the verge of something big. We’ll see what happens on Monday in the all important Game Four.

After he took Motte off the puck, here came Bratt skating freely into the Rangers zone. He made a very patient play by faking out the defense. Once he drew them out of position, he found a cutting Hamilton for the winner with 8:24 left in overtime. He had too much time, beating Shesterkin high glove to get the Devils back in the series.

It’s ironic that the road team has won all three games. Both the Rangers and Devils had better records away from home. I felt home ice wouldn’t matter in this series. So far, it hasn’t. The Rangers need to flip the script tomorrow night. They don’t want to go back to The Rock tied at 2-2.

Interestingly, this reminds me of the first round meeting in 2008. The Rangers took the first two in Newark before losing in overtime for Game Three. That game is best known for Sean Avery waving his stick at Martin Brodeur. The Avery Rule. What a joke that was. I’ll refrain from any further commentary on Avery.

Fortunately, a late Marc Staal goal won Game Four. Another game we were at. The Rangers then wrapped up the much closer fought series in five. It was really about Henrik Lundqvist. Maybe Shesterkin can repeat that. He’s only been beaten four times. Once at even strength on the Hamilton OT winner.

For my three stars, I went with one Ranger and two Devils. I selected Kreider third for his fifth goal. He has been dangerous. I went with Bratt over Hamilton for number two. I thought he was the best Devils skater. Number one went to Schmid.

Postgame Notes: Rangers out-shot the Devils 36-28, including 8-5 in overtime…In a hard luck loss, Shesterkin made 26 saves on 28 shots. For the series, he’s allowed four goals on 80 shots for a 1.26 GAA and .950 save percentage… John Marino led all skaters in ice time with 28:41. Adam Fox had 28:03 for the Rangers.

Key Statistics

SOG: NJD 28 (Bratt/Hughes/Meier 5 each) NYR 36 (Kane/Zibanejad 4 each)

Total Attempts: NJD 61 (Meier 10) NYR 69 (Panarin 9)

Missed Shots: NJD 14 (Hamilton 5) NYR 16 (Panarin 4)

Giveaways: NJD 15 (Palat 3) NYR 19 (Kreider/Trocheck 3 each)

Takeaways: NJD 10 (Graves/Hughes 2 each) NYR 15 (Trocheck 4)

Face-offs: NJD 25 (McLeod 11-5) NYR 37 (Zibanejad 18-10), Chytil 10-3)


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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2 Responses to Hamilton’s overtime winner gives Devils life with a 2-1 road victory over Rangers to take Game Three, Schmid earns first win in postseason debut, NYR lead series 2-1

  1. hasan4978 says:

    This was a lot fairer of an assessment than most of what I saw and heard last night during the ‘national’ broadcast…endlessly harping on the Timo missed penalty when there were others in the other direction before that which were uncommented on was bad enough. Making fun of the skate sharperner and blaming that guy for Devils slipping all over the ice rather than the actual issues of it being a warm weather day and having an NBA playoff game the day before was stupid, as was harping on ‘no shot attempts in four minutes for the Devils’ when the Devils spent two of those minutes killing a power play! Maybe by Game 4 they’ll learn how to pronounce Schmid’s name, it sounded like none of them had any clue since they went back and forth from Schmeed to Schmidt. I’m not even getting into the Messier-PK stuff in the intermission, you sort of expect that given who both players are and the fact ABC/ESPN probably wants contrived conflict in the booth anyway.

    They should be back in the series but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also thinking about 2008 and the eerie synochrity of losing the first two at home and winning Game 3 in OT on the road. We’ll see if this one, and Schmid gives the team a spark. One even-strength goal in three plus games isn’t good enough, they have to create more 5-on-5 to get on a run, particularly with how good Igor is. At least Lindy mostly made the right lineup choices, although I’m half tempted to think there was an intervention with his postgame comments about discussing the lineup with Marty and Fitz.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Felix says:

      Thanks. I always try to give a good objective assessment when our teams meet. The officiating has been atrocious in the playoffs.

      I put up a new column about the Game Three controversy between the Kings and Oilers. That was a disgrace.


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