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Devils Listless in Late-Game after Blackwood is Elbowed in Head, Lose in Shootout 4-3

This was a terrible game to watch.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
Oof, tough shot - maybe that should be a penalty or something.
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

The New Jersey Devils were rather poor on the puck early, giving the puck away to Julien Gauthier right in front of Mackenzie Blackwood about four and a half minutes in. Gauthier went to the left of Blackwood, but Blackwood stayed on him and made the save. Alexis Lafreniere then got the puck behind the net, and set Gauthier up for a one-timer that was saved. Blackwood was tested several times in the early stages of the game - each time making the stop.

The Devils started to turn things around as the game approached the halfway point of the first. Dawson Mercer and Jesper Bratt had a rush chance, after breaking up an offensive zone possession by the Panarin line, which was broken up on the pass from Mercer to Bratt. Yegor Sharangovich helped take the puck away in the neutral zone a few minutes later, leading to the Devils forcing the puck into the corner of their zone as the third line changed one-by-one with the fourth, as Siegenthaler and Geertsen prolonged possession long enough for Jimmy Vesey to escape towards the slot with the puck. He did not get a shot off, but Siegenthaler took a screened shot from the high slot that went wide.

The Hischier line had a pretty good shift with eight minutes to play in the period, getting several shot attempts from Hamilton, Graves, and Zacha, with Nico Hischier working hard for netfront position, and Tatar winning a couple puck battles. However, a couple shifts later, Yegor Sharangovich turned the puck over to Artemi Panarin while breaking out of the defensive zone, and Panarin got a good backhand on Blackwood on the quick counterattack. Blackwood was able to make the save, but it would have been nice to see the Devils continue their good streak of play.

Pavel Zacha had a golden opportunity with six minutes to play, as Tomas Tatar and Nico Hischier connected on the rush - and Georgiev challenged Nico too hard without any defensive support, allowing Nico to play it down low to Zacha, whose chip shot went above the crossbar. Then, with under five to play, Dawson Mercer split the neutral zone defense of the Rangers with a pass to Jesper Bratt, who got in on a breakaway. This time, Bratt did not pull anything out of his bag of tricks, and beat Alexandar Georgiev straight-up with a low shot! 1-0, Devils.

The New York Rangers got too cute on an odd-man rush, as Damon Severson lost the puck high in the zone to K’Andre Miller, who had Chris Kreider with a pass that beat Severson. Instead of shooting, Kreider played it to Sammy Blais’ whose one-timer deflected off Blackwood’s glove and the crossbar out of play.

Through one, the shots were 11-10 in favor of the Rangers, but Mackenzie Blackwood was strong against their chances.

Second Period

At the start of the second, Ty Smith set Pavel Zacha up going into the offensive zone, forcing Georgiev to make a save with his shoulder that deflected out of play. The Devils controlled most of the first few minutes of this period, and Yegor Sharangovich set Jesper Boqvist up for the next big chance in the offensive zone from the wall, but Boqvist shot wide.

Going back the other way, Ty Smith defended Julien Gauthier on a one-on-one with one hand on the stick, but the puck went out to Adam Fox, whose shot went into the top corner to tie the game at one. Damon Severson could not get the puck out after Ty Smith disrupted Gauthier, playing it right to Fox.

After the goal, Ryan Graves had a great shot that Georgiev gloved, off a pass from Nico Hischier on the rush. The Devils would not continue to threaten, however, as P.K. Subban took a slashing call while defending behind the net 5:02 into the period. Hischier won the draw to Graves, but the Rangers kept it in and forced Blackwood to make a save, and the puck went out of play. McLeod won the next draw, and Damon Severson failed to clear initially - but the Devils forced the puck out of the zone. Michael McLeod intercepted a pass at the end of his 40+ second shift and cleared it down ice.

Nico Hischier broke up a pass from Panarin in the corner to Zibanejad, preventing a netfront chance. The Rangers then cycled up high, giving Panarin a one-timer from the circle that Blackwood smothered. Jacob Trouba then held the zone after a faceoff win by the Devils, later getting a chance to shoot - but it went wide and the Devils were able to get on it and clear.

Out of the box, P.K. Subban collected a pass from Damon Severson and played it deep after spinning away from the Rangers a few times. Kuokkanen was knocked down from behind along the boards, but no call was made. A couple minutes later, Jimmy Vesey was called for slashing while Ty Smith was holding the puck. Vesey had just been slashed and decided to retaliate - but only he was tagged with a penalty.

The Devils won the draw and Nico Hischier was able to fight the Rangers for the puck deep in the offensive zone for the first 15 seconds. The Rangers worked it up, but Kuokkanen dumped it right back out to Michael McLeod, who wasted some time before passing to Graves - who sent it back to the Devils’ offensive zone. Graves got another clear at the beginning of the second minute, and P.K. Subban followed that up with another after skating hard to a loose puck in the corner. The Rangers set up with 20 seconds in their power play, and Kaapo Kakko played it across to Jacob Trouba below the faceoff circle, whose shot was knocked high by Blackwood. However, the puck rolled down his back, and Alexis Lafreniere cleaned it up on the goal line as the power play expired.

After Michael McLeod split the Rangers defense, giving the Devils a possession, Ryan Graves shot from the point with Hischier screening. Nico was taken down from behind by Ryan Lindgren, and the Devils went to the power play.

Jesper Bratt started with the first wave, and he collected the puck after it was knocked out of the zone to start the two minutes. Dougie Hamilton carried it into the zone after the Rangers defense knocked his pass back to him, and as Kevin Rooney fell due to the terrible Garden ice. Hamilton ripped a shot that went off the iron and in, tying the game at two! Bratt and Zacha got the assists on the play, as it was Zacha’s pass off a bouncing puck that went into the neutral zone before Bratt got on it.

After Adam Fox went down at his blueline, the Devils’ third line had a three-on-one chance. Boqvist and Sharangovich played back-and-forth - and Boqvist’s one-timer was too weak and low to beat Georgiev, off a too-slow pass from Sharangovich. Boqvist should not have shot there, as they had plenty of time to slow it down and keep moving the puck. Alternatively, Sharangovich could have taken the shot.

After the Devils lost the puck up high to Sammy Blais, Tomas Tatar backchecked hard to force Blais to pass instead of shoot on the move across Blackwood. Kreider got the puck and shot off the side of the net. A couple minutes later, Mackenzie Blackwood failed to handle the puck behind the net and had to dive across the crease as Kaapo Kakko shot at an open net. The shot did not go in, and the Devils escaped without coughing up a goal.

Through two, the shots were 26-17 in favor of the Rangers.

Third Period

The Devils were a bit off to start the period, giving the Rangers multiple chances in the first few minutes, as their transition defense was particularly poor. Nearly four minutes into the period, P.K. Subban and Sammy Blais were going to the corner, and Blais went awkwardly into the boards. The referees did not call anything on Subban as Blais was helped off, unable to put weight onto his leg. It did not appear that Subban took out the leg or really even pushed him, but Blais’ skate got stuck between Subban’s and the boards.

Yegor Sharangovich nearly got on the board as Dougie Hamilton found him for a redirection in front, but Georgiev kicked it out. Sharangovich had a lot of the net and shot it right into Georgiev. Meanwhile,

The Rangers took the lead again six and a half minutes into the period, as Kaapo Kakko poked away a puck in the neutral zone from Ryan Graves, played give-and-go with Ryan Strome, ran over Blackwood, and scored. 3-2, Rangers. Blackwood appeared to be shaken up on the play, as Kakko hit him in the head with his arm while driving the net.

A few minutes later, despite staying in the game, the Devils pulled Mackenzie Blackwood from the game, following a scrum involving Mason Geertsen that delayed play. Jonathan Bernier entered the game with 11:22 to play.

The next several minutes was mostly full of futility by the Devils, who ran Geertsen out multiple times as they failed to get any shots on net. The Devils looked listless with very little fight, and the Rangers continually cleared the puck from their zone. Ty Smith finally got a shot on goal with 4:03 to play, after quite some time without any shots.

Despite the terrible period they played, the Devils tied it with under three to play, a Nico Hischier gained the zone for Tomas Tatar to chip it past the Rangers’ defense and off of Nico Hischier. It went right to Pavel Zacha, whose shot rebounded right to him - and he buried the second chance.

Artemi Panarin had a couple chances to score with under two to play. On the first, Jonathan Bernier had to make a save with a scramble to the side of his net. On the second, the Devils’ fourth line got off ice prematurely, allowing Panarin to regain the zone and cut to the high slot - but his shot went wide.

With 33.9 to play, Lindy Ruff called timeout. The Devils were still weak in their own zone despite the late tying goal by Pavel Zacha, and he rightfully had enough of seeing their passive ineptitude. Michael McLeod took a defensive zone faceoff against Barclay Goodrow, with Zibanejad flanking back. However, McLoed won the draw - but the Rangers held it in. Bernier made a save on a point shot, and the puck was kept in the corner by the Devils until there were 10 seconds left - and McLeod was beaten to the puck after it sent down ice and poked to him. The game thus went to overtime.

Overtime

In overtime, Michael McLeod, Dougie Hamilton, and Jesper Bratt started for the Devils against Ryan Strome, Artemi Panarin, and Adam Fox. Strome won the draw, and McLeod went off for Zacha. Panarin skated up on Zacha, cut around the zone, and shot from the right circle into Bernier’s chest.

Nico Hischier won the next draw to Dougie Hamilton, and Sharangovich joined them on the ice. Hamilton sent Sharangovich up ice, who ripped it after entering the zone - but it was blocked. Mercer and Johnsson came on with Severson, and Chris Kreider just missed with a shot. Zibanejad shot off the side of the net, and Severson took it for the Devils. After the Rangers missed a golden opportunity with Jacob Trouba’s shot being kicked by Bernier, Jesper Bratt created a breakaway with his speed when Trouba missed with a pass from behind Bernier. He shot for the five-hole and was denied.

Artemi Panarin shot wide with two and a half minutes to play, and Dougie Hamilton took it up for the Devils. He changed for Severson after gaining the zone. Tatar left the ice for Hischier, who took the puck from center. Bratt joined Hischier for awhile before Sharangovich got onto the ice. Nothing was made of the chance. Damon Severson broke up a chance for Panarin on the other end, and Bernier made a stop. All players on the ice were exhausted, and Chris Kreider spun off Zacha - but ran out of room driving the net from the wall, and time expired shortly after.

Shootout

The Devils shot first, sending out Damon Severson. He went to the left, deked to his backhand - and was disrupted by Georgiev’s stick, which tripped Severson up.

Mika Zibanejad followed that up with a slow entrance and a sudden shot, which was saved.

Jesper Bratt went second for the Devils, going wide and low with the shot, beating Georgiev! 1-0 in the shootout, Devils.

Kaapo Kakko followed. He deked to the backhand and scored as Bernier went down to the ice. 1-1 in the shootout.

Dougie Hamilton went third. He went wide left, fluttering a shot high off Georgiev and past the goal line! 2-1 in the shootout, Devils.

Artemi Panarin went third for the Rangers, going wide before roofing a shot to tie it at two aside.

Dawson Mercer went fourth. He went wide, drew back to the middle, and shot into the glove.

Alexis Lafreniere followed up. He strode ahead, firing wide on the slow weave-through.

Andreas Johnsson went fifth. He went in quick with a shot for the five hole, and scored! 3-2, Devils in the shootout.

Ryan Strome followed, drawing Bernier out and fooling him with a five hole shot to tie it at three.

Tomas Tatar went sixth. He got Georgiev to the ice, who made a scorpion save on Tatar, who did not lift the puck enough.

Kevin Rooney went sixth for the Rangers, and his shot was saved by Bernier.

Pavel Zacha went seventh. He went wide right, went back to the middle, and backhanded it into Georgiev.

Chris Kreider went next in his second career shootout attempt. His backhand beat Jonathan Bernier to win the game for the Rangers.

The Game Stats: The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: Go see Blueshirt Banter.

Hitting A Goalie In the Face is Goaltender Interference

I don’t think I need to say too much about this. Stripes, you’re right there - and Blackwood was pulled by a concussion spotter. Do your job.

The Garden Ice is a Disgrace to the NHL

If you tried to make a video of each time a player fell to the ice, stumbled, slipped, or got caught while trying to do basic skating tonight, I would guess you’d get at least 40+ clips - but my feeling is that might be a conservative estimate. It seemed like a by-minute basis with occasional flurries of falling rather than the occasional lost edge. This made it rather unenjoyable to watch the game, as it was almost a rarity to see anyone try to use skating to their advantage. On simple turns, you would see players nearly going down. This is unbecoming of a league over a month into its schedule, but I guess it’s just par for the course at Madison Square Garden.

Yep. That just about sums it up.

Pathetic Third Period

I do not care that the Devils tied the game late. They deserved to lose in regulation, if the league is too stupid, blind, or whatever to take care of the goalie on a play where he is elbowed in the head before the puck is even shot toward the goal line. I guess, thank the universe for Pavel Zacha’s prowess in late-game situations. He seemed like the only guy on the ice the Devils felt confident setting it up for - as there were a couple moments where he’d set up high in the zone as the Rangers collapsed. Once he got the puck, he’d step in and rip it. This did not work tonight, but he did jump on the loose puck off Hischier’s back to force overtime.

But the Devils were dangerously close to giving the game up in the late third, again, anyway. And I do not even need to cite the advanced statistics - the third and fourth line were terrible at generating any offense. Yet, Lindy Ruff thought the mid-third was the best time to load up on some Mason Geertsen ice time. They went for whole stretches without making Georgiev break a sweat. If Lindy Ruff had called that timeout five or 10 minutes earlier (or called for the challenge on the Kakko goal), maybe the Devils would not have looked so awful. But that is just a maybe.

Who Was Not Terrible?

Pavel Zacha was not terrible tonight. He gets a gold star for actually trying in the third period. Ditto for Nico Hischier, who was the best skater for the Devils all night. All the dirty possession work was driven through Nico Hischier for the Devils’ top line tonight - and Tatar chipped in on a few timely moments in that regard. Dawson Mercer and Jesper Bratt got up to their usual tricks, even though Andreas Johnsson was invisible tonight.

And really, if Lindy Ruff wants to win, he’s going to have to figure out how to get those two lines to rack up 20+ minutes a night. I know this is a new league with a motto for rolling four lines, but the bottom six has been bad lately. They have been run in on defense, and have not been good for anything with the puck. It would have been nice to see Alex Holtz play, since the bottom six literally could not have been any worse. He might have been useful in the shootout.

The Rare Bad Games

Ryan Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler have been great for the Devils this season. Tonight was not a part of that great defensive play. Graves made a terrible giveaway leading to Kakko’s goal, and Siegenthaler’s pairing with Subban seemed to be hemmed in all night. Subban seemed to be making some decent plays with the puck, but tonight was not their night. The Devils gave up way too many opportunities tonight - way too many chances where there was only one man back against a rush of Rangers. Bad passing, bad positioning, and a bad game for the team.

The team was really just disjointed tonight. I would have expected better against as poor a five-on-five team as the Rangers, but the Devils fell apart defensively tonight. And while I noted how disinteresting the game was visually with how bad the ice was, both teams had to deal with it. The Rangers were not too deterred that they could not get 41 shots on the board, but the Devils could barely string anything together aside from the strong possessions by the Hischier line. And if I sound disgusted, that’s because I am.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of tonight’s game? Did you think Ruff should have challenged the Kakko goal? How did you feel about the line management in the late-game situations? How did you feel about Severson giving a goal away, and then displaying incredible overtime defense, only for the Devils to make nothing of surviving three-on-three anyway? How did you feel about what happened to Mackenzie Blackwood? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

And as always, whether you followed in the gamethread, or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog, thanks for reading. This is Chris - goodnight.