First Period: The game got off to a slow start, but before three minutes had passed in the game, the Rangers took the first penalty of the game. Marc Staal crosschecked Miles Wood, and that was followed by a scrum around the net. The Devils got a five-on-four power play out of it, with Staal, Wood, and Michael Haley in the box.
During the power play, the Rangers pushed the puck out of the zone early and the Devils got one shot before the net came off its moorings. The faceoff came out of the zone, and the Devils had an offsides before getting another two zone entries, before Subban got a shot from the point that could not be jammed into the net by a Devil, and the puck left the zone again.
The first goal came just over a minute after the Rangers killed the power play. After a shot that Blackwood could not cover a Brady Skjei shot, Tony DeAngelo came around the net and the bouncing puck past him. Despite having all five Devils within the faceoff circles, and nobody going to pressure the point shot, no Devil could clear the rebound.
Pavel Zacha made a great pass from the corner boards to a cutting Jesper Bratt, who was wide open in the slot. Instead of shooting on his forehand, Bratt skated too deep on Georgiev, making too many moves and allowing a Rangers defenseman to recover and get the puck away from Bratt.
The Coleman-Zajac-Simmonds line, now reunited, had a very good shift in the first half of the period. After getting some attempts on net and working very strongly around the boards, Travis Zajac intercepted a zone exit to keep the pressure on the Rangers. When the puck finally got to the other end of the ice, Wayne Simmonds intercepted a pass and cleared it to allow the line to change off.
Blake Coleman finally got the Devils on the board. After making a takeaway on the forecheck that disrupted the Rangers, he was all alone for a pass when the Devils made another takeaway in the neutral zone. As the Rangers came on from a line change, Coleman shot high, and the puck went off Georgiev’s mask, through his legs, and into the net. The primary assist went to Travis Zajac. Matt Tennyson, who broke up the Rangers pass, got the second assist.
After the goal, the Devils took a penalty. Working along the boards, Kyle Palmieri got his stick high on Artemi Panarin. After Blake Coleman and MacKenzie Blackwood both got clears, Pavel Zacha and Travis Zajac did great to keep the puck deep in the Rangers zone. The Rangers lost about 45 seconds from the clears, and they only got two shots that were saved by Blackwood before Zacha cleared the puck down the ice to kill the remaining power play.
A delayed power play was called against the Rangers as Ryan Strome hooked a Devil. The Devils worked the puck down the ice at six-on-five and Kyle Palmieri blasted an attempt before the whistle blew for the penalty. After the Devils got two shots, Taylor Hall took a penalty for interference with his stick between the legs of a Ranger to kill the remaining 1:24 of power play the Devils had. The Devils were able to kill the 36 seconds of power play the Rangers had, mostly thanks to Travis Zajac making a timely pass interception in the low slot to prevent a pass across Blackwood for a one-timer. The period ended 1-1. The shots were 13-10 Devils, but the Rangers had a slight edge in attempts at even strength. This was shaping up to be a game of scrums and physical, penalty-prone play, so the Devils would have to keep up their special teams play as well.
Second Period: On the first shift of the period, Travis Zajac got the puck in the corner of the offensive zone and sent it to Wayne Simmonds, who was alone to redirect the puck. Georgiev made the stop, however.
MacKenzie Blackwood made a bad giveaway behind the net to Brett Howden. As he skated backwards into the net, Howden made a move towards the crease and Blackwood dove onto the ice to poke it away from him.
Another penalty was called on the Rangers - this time Brady Skjei being given a minor for interfering with John Hayden after Hayden sent the puck around the boards. The Devils made it count. Right off the draw, Kyle Palmieri took the puck around a diving Ranger and put his shot right over Georgiev’s shoulder.
Another penalty was called not too long after the goal, as Artemi Panarin went off for holding P.K. Subban in the Rangers’ offensive zone as Subban tried to start a breakout. Not much happened on the power play until Miles Wood took the puck and skated up the ice with 30 seconds left. He passed it off to Subban, who blasted it on net. The Devils second wave then got a bit over half a minute of sustained zone time.
On the other end, after the penalty expired, Panarin took the puck after Will Butcher fell and turned it over. Panarin waited for Kreider to skate in, and Kreider’s shot from the slot was stopped by Blackwood as the Devils dove on the ice to prevent Panarin from making a pass across the crease.
Taylor Hall threw a high hit on Adam Fox behind the Rangers net. Brady Skjei then jumped on Hall in the corner as the linesman blew the play dead. Adam Fox returned to the dressing room for concussion protocol. It was a high hit, but Fox ducked as he dumped the puck around.
On the Rangers power play, the Rangers nearly had a goal as Mika Zibanejad blasted a one-timer at Blackwood with Chris Kreider in front of the net. Blackwood got the puck with his skate, and the play blew dead for the net being off the moorings. On the following faceoff, Pavel Zacha made a great pass breakup and pushed the puck out of the zone before it ended in the Devils bench, bringing the faceoff just outside the Devils zone.
WHAT A SAVE BY BLACKWOOD! pic.twitter.com/17Rpczj0NT— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 18, 2019
Miles Wood finally made good of all the extra chances that he’s been given this season. After Kevin Rooney changed off, Wood and Hayden stayed on. Tennyson shot it from the point, and it deflected off Jack Hughes’ stick high, and then off Miles Wood before going past Georgiev.
Jack Hughes gets his first NHL point just the way he dreamed of all those years as a kid. Tipping a Matt Tennyson shot off Miles Wood’s butt and in— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) October 18, 2019
After the goal, Adam Fox returned to play. Kaapo Kakko, meanwhile drew a penalty on Jesper Bratt as the puck came out of the Rangers’ zone. It seemed to me that it was a bad call, as Kakko was not really being impeded at all when he went to the ice. Frankly, he just fell, and Bratt was called for tripping.
On the kill, P.K. Subban got the first clear for the Devils after an attempt by the Rangers top wave. The Devils got a second clear before the Rangers set back up, but Trouba’s shot was blocked by Kevin Rooney and Pavel Zacha created a breakaway where his backhanded move was stopped by Georgiev. Blake Coleman and Travis Zajac followed by keeping play in the Devils’ offensive zone for a few more seconds before forcing the play to the boards in the Devils’ defensive zone. After a Fox shot went wide, the Rangers power play ended. Rooney appeared to be a little hurt by the blocked shot, but continued to play hard when he returned for his even strength shifts later in the period.
At the end of two periods, the Devils were being outshot 23-25, winning 3-1, and the Rangers’ even strength attempt differential was growing more in their favor. However, the Devils were getting better chances on Georgiev, and they looked to lock it down in the third period.
Third Period: The Rangers struck in the early stages of the third period. As Blackwood could not cover a single shot, Mirco Mueller drew himself out of position failing to poke a puck away, and the puck was passed by Strome across the crease to Jesper Fast, who put it past Blackwood.
Tony DeAngelo was called for a crosscheck a little over a minute past the goal. As Simmonds skated backwards toward Georgiev to set a screen, DeAngelo knocked him to the ice. The first wave of the Devils power play got a few shots, but did not break down the defensive structure of the Rangers. Zibanejad had a contested chance with Subban defending during the second wave’s time, and the penalty expired shortly after.
The Devils had a two-on-one chance with Travis Zajac and Taylor Hall as Zajac had intercepted a pass in the neutral zone. Zajac had trouble getting a shot off, and Hall poked at Georgiev’s glove. The puck went in, the whistle blew, and the horn sounded off. But the referee explained there was no goal due to goaltender interference. It was an interesting call, as no body part of any player touched Georgiev, and only Taylor Hall’s stick, which was playing the puck, touched the glove. For challenging, the Devils took a delay of game penalty. Taylor Hall served the minor.
The Devils penalty kill did a very good job at continually pushing the puck out of their defensive zone. Travis Zajac got a backhanded shot at a cutting Blake Coleman at one point, but it went wide. After the penalty expired, Taylor Hall got the puck and shot it as Brady Skjei pressured him, and Skjei’s stick went flying. The Devils were not able to make Skjei pay, as Subban soon after fired right into Georgiev.
Jesper Fast took a penalty for boarding Matt Tennyson after the Hughes line put together a solid shift. With less than just half a period remaining to play, the Devils looked to make the game 4-2 for real.
Taylor Hall got the first attempt of the power play shortly after the opening draw, and hit the post. Sami Vatanen had a couple attempts after, but the first wave mostly did nothing. The second wave of the power play had the puck cleared to start their zone time, and on the second entry Subban got one shot that was blocked by Anderson. The Devils kept the puck in the zone as Nikita Gusev took the puck away from Artemi Panarin, and went five-hole on Georgiev.
As the game reached the last quarter period of the third, the Devils were looking good. Despite playing with only five defensemen due to Will Butcher’s injury on a blocked shot, the Devils continued to pressure Georgiev and not allow many high-danger shots for the Rangers.
However, Chris Kreider took a huge dive with little under four minutes remaining and drew a penalty from Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds had pushed him, and Kreider’s own stick tripped himself up, and he fell. Simmonds was called for hooking.
Goergiev went right off. With the Devils penalty kill on, the Rangers had to deal with the lack of icing for the Devils. Mirco Mueller took the first length-of-the-ice shot, and it went wide. Pavel Zacha took another as the second penalty kill unit came on, but it was gloved down and called for a Rangers hand pass. Thus, the faceoff was just outside the Rangers’ defensive zone, and Georgiev returned to his net.
Georgiev came back out with about two minutes and 20 seconds to play, and around 40 seconds on the penalty remaining. Sami Vatanen blocked a shot and sent it to Travis Zajac, who cleared it as Wayne Simmonds came out of the box and Blake Coleman went on the forecheck as play became six-on-five.
As play reached the final minute, P.K. Subban stripped the puck away in a faceoff circle of the Devils defensive zone as he kneeled down with his stick on the ice to block a pass. His clear went into the net.
As Miles Wood was about to take a shot on Georgiev as play was winding down, Tony DeAngelo slashed his stick in half, and play ended without anything more to talk about.
Devils defeat Rangers 5-2 to get their first win of season.— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) October 18, 2019
Jack Hughes gets his first NHL point.
P.K. Subban gets his first goal as a Devil.
The Opposition Opinion: Blueshirt Banter will have a recap tonight.
Hughes and Kakko: Tonight was the anticipated night of the number one overall pick of the New Jersey Devils, Jack Hughes, facing the second overall pick of the New York Rangers, Kaapo Kakko. They both had two shots and an individual scoring chance. At even strength (including the four-on-four), Jack Hughes had a 50.00 CF%, and Kaapo Kakko had a 60.00 CF%. Jack Hughes got a primary assist as he deflected a puck off of Miles Wood into the net, and Kaapo Kakko was not on the scoresheet.
Tom Fitzgerald: Previously, my recaps and previews this season has focused a lot on the failings of our special teams. That has led to me to call for the firings of Alain Nasreddine, who runs the penalty kill, and Rick Kowalsky, who runs the power play. With Tom Fitzgerald behind the bench, Mike Grier was sent to the pressbox, and his influence on the penalty kill may have been seen in this game. The Rangers power play went 0-for-6, and the Devils returned to being able to get some attack on the penalty kill, with Pavel Zacha creating a breakaway off a Rooney block, and Zajac and Coleman continually getting the puck deep and centering pucks for redirection attempts. Among Devils who had more than a minute of penalty killing time, Sami Vatanen (4:10) and Kevin Rooney (3:13) had positive Corsi for and expected goals percentages.
Mirco Mueller and P.K. Subban something to be desired on the penalty kill in the way of being able to send forwards on the attack with clears and passes, but they nonetheless managed in their five-plus minutes.
Subban: At even strength, P.K. Subban played one of his best games of the early season. He had a 63.84 CF% in a team-leading 15:43 with Damon Severson on his left, who has struggled in that role previously. He was on the ice for a whopping 1.46 xGF to 0.29 xGA, for an 83.40 xGF%. Subban fired nine shots on goal, and of course ended the game with his empty net goal. He was really dynamic for the Devils tonight, and they need that with Andy Greene out of the lineup, and a subpar third pairing.
Butcher-Vatanen: On the penalty kill, they were great. At even strength, they were not. In 9:34 together, the pairing had a 13.54 xGF%, and a goal against when nobody picked up Pavel Buchnevich or Tony DeAngelo following a Brady Skjei point shot in the sequence that opened the scoring in the game.
Pavel Zacha: Pavel Zacha needs to get more shots on goal, but oh has his play off the puck gotten so good. Zacha was everywhere today, intercepting passes, making great ones (like the one to Bratt that was not capitalized on), and used his skating to get a breakaway on Georgiev. His possession was slightly under even, but his xGF% was high yet again at 75.79. With Jack Hughes’ struggles on the top line, it may behoove John Hynes to find a way to rearrange to get Zacha in defensive matchups against top talents rather than Hughes.
Kyle Palmieri: Kyle Palmieri is the man the Devils have to thank for ending the scoreless streak on the power play. It is not all roses, as the Devils left a lot of chances on the table with the man advantage. Nonetheless, they need to work with what they have and move forward from the atrocity of a start they had this season. When Nico Hischier comes back, I’d be interested to see if he gets onto the first power play wave. Hischier is sure to win more draws than Hughes, as Nico has been very good in the faceoff dot this season. Hughes at times today made the wrong move or one too many on the power play, canceling out Devils opportunities.
MacKenzie Blackwood: With the Devils on a nationally televised game, tonight was a better time than ever for MacKenzie Blackwood to show that he was ready to play a full NHL season. Against six Rangers power plays, Blackwood stopped every shot - and that is no small feat considering the talent of their power play. According to Natural Stat Trick, Blackwood stopped all of his low and medium danger shots during the game, and had a .600 save percentage against high danger shots (three saved of five). This all added up to a .937 save percentage on 31 shots. While he wasn’t bailing the Devils out of every bad play, he did make big stops when necessary and allowed his offense to win the game.
Your Thoughts: What did you think about tonight’s game? Were you excited to see the Devils finally win? Were you expecting a fight? How did you feel about Taylor Hall’s hit on Adam Fox? What were you thinking when watching Kaapo Kakko tonight? Are you looking forward to next game, or are you still too uneasy about this team? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Devils only have three games remaining the rest of the month - the first of which will be Saturday at 1:00 PM versus Vancouver. The Devils and Rangers will next meet on on Saturday, November 30 at 7:00 PM. Given the Devils have a game in Canada on Thanksgiving, I wish the NHL scheduling office had seen that one and made the obvious matchup happen. But, here we are, and the Rangers just played their second in 11 days and the Devils are about to only play three games for the remaining 14 days of the month. So, not the brightest bunch apparently.
Whether you followed along tonight in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for following. This is Chris - goodnight.