After the Devils averted the initial Rangers possession, Igor Shesterkin had to face a sharp-angled Nico Hischier wrister that was deflected out of play. The second line came out, and Shesterkin kicked out the faceoff to Ondrej Palat, who beat Shesterkin on the rebound! 1-0, Devils in the first minute! Ondrej Palat, with his second goal of the series, got the Devils crowd rocking with fervor off the bat.
Blink and you might miss it pic.twitter.com/SM1zQz37Gl— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 27, 2023
About seven minutes into the period, Zibanejad croschecked Jesper Bratt and knocked down Nico Hischier at the blue line, taking an interference penalty. The Devils were swarmed by the Rangers on the power play, not getting a shot on goal in the first minute after Hughes missed a one-timer. Haula, on the second wave, missed the net too. Severson took a shot through a screen, getting it through from the point. Dawson Mercer went for a loose puck, drawing several crosschecks from Ryan Lindgren. Of course, they evened out the penalties, giving Meier a minor penalty for taking shots to the face from Trouba. Then, back at five-on-five, Bratt got stripped by Trocheck, leading to a wide open Panarin shot. Schmid got it with the glove!
SCHMIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIID pic.twitter.com/l9hLeSxGxs— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 28, 2023
With under seven minutes to go, the fourth line was hemmed in against the Rangers’ top line, and took a penalty. They defended with the extra man until they finally got a partial change and touch of the puck. Jonas Siegenthaler went off for hooking Vladimir Tarasenko. Schmid made a pad save on a point shot, and the Devils won the puck from the corner for a clear. Schmid then made another save on a Zibanejad one-timer before Marino made a huge block on another. The Devils came away with a big kill, as Schmid made three saves.
Jesper Bratt was robbed on a beautiful passing play, with Graves threading a pass across the neutral zone to Hischier. Hischier then backhanded a soft pass through to Bratt, who deflected it into a Shesterkin save. Later, with just a minute left, McLeod set up Mercer with a one-timer at the side of the net that went off the iron. This came off a long cycle by the Meier-McLeod-Mercer line, and the Devils had a couple more chances that were either saved by Shesterkin or shot wide. The Devils went into the first intermission up 1-0.
After Nico Hischier extended an offensive zone shift for the Devils, Palat spun off a Ranger and shot it high and wide. Jack Hughes followed the puck out, and he was tripped in the neutral zone by Patrick Kane. Kane went off for tripping a minute and a half in after Shesterkin stopped play with his glove.
On their second power play, the Devils had a rough first half minute with trying to establish possession. Hughes just barely intercepted a pass to a streaking Chris Kreider, averting a breakaway. Palat then broke through for a shot, which was saved by Shesterkin. The second unit came on for the second minute, and Meier shot a puck off Trouba and out of play from the dot. Off the faceoff, Dawson Mercer took a Damon Severson backhand pass and turned into a shot low. Erik Haula deflected the puck home! With ONE SECOND on the power play! 2-0, Devils! Severson made an amazing play to dance around Trocheck to open up the passing lane.
On the other end, Akira Schmid made a huge glove save on a batted puck from Kaapo Kakko. Shesterkin answered with a big glove save of his own on Nico Hischier, who came with a rush shot, trying to give the Devils their third. Nathan Bastian, some time later, fought through two Rangers to follow his own rebound, creating a fourth line scramble and a shot from Graves that went just wide.
Kevin Bahl had a big show of physicality, getting the crowd roaring. First, he stood up Barclay Goodrow with his backside behind the net, getting the puck in the process. Goodrow gave a good thought about going after him, but thought better of it. Then, Bahl destroyed Jimmy Vesey on the wall with a perfect hip check. After Schmid froze play at the side of the net, Goodrow went after Bahl and both dropped the gloves. The linesmen let them go after each other, but they were apparently tired and barely threw any punches before stopping the fight.
For some reason, Damon Severson was also given a minor penalty on the play. The Devils went to the penalty kill. The Rangers had nothing on this phantom power play. Near the end, the puck skipped on Panarin, and Erik Haula took it the other way. He beat Fox for the pass across to Mercer, who ripped a one-timer high! 3-0! Dawson Mercer’s first postseason goal came on the penalty kill!
Timo Meier had a give-and-go with Dawson Mercer with four minutes to play which was just saved by Shesterkin’s glove. The Devils continued to dominate, as Schmid came up with more stops to keep the lead at 3-0 going into the second intermission.
Mika Zibanejad took a goaltender interference penalty half a minute into the period. He got his stick up high on Schmid. Igor Shesterkin came up big for the Rangers on this penalty kill, making a stop on Palat on the doorstep when Jimmy Vesey lost his stick, following a stop on Bratt’s one-timer. The Devils had just those two shots on the power play, but they were dangerous ones.
Igor Shesterkin left the net wide open trying to play the puck, and Jesper Bratt won it on the wall and tried to work it to Nico Hischier for a goal. However, he was deterred by Mikkola, who deflected the puck away. Nico then had a one-on-one chance with Shesterkin, which Igor came up big on.
Timo Meier was held from behind on a breakaway by Patrick Kane, sending the Devils back to the power play. This should have been a penalty shot, but the two minutes was fine by me. Earlier, Jesper Boqvist walked Kane to go through all three zones — he was really buzzing leading up to setting up Meier ahead for a breakaway.
On the power play, the first unit had a couple of tries on Shesterkin but could not get into open space. Shesterkin made one last stop on this power play on a Haula deflection from a Severson point pass. The Rangers walked away with the kill, but they only had one shot on Schmid through the first twelve minutes of the period.
Akira Schmid was finally challenged with six and a half minutes to play, and both teams went diving for the puck. Erik Haula just saved the puck from crossing the goal line as Lafreniere had the tap-in but could not get there in time. As the teams scrambled, Jack Hughes swept it from the ice out of the zone, and Jonas Siegenthaler and Ryan Lindgren got into a scrap behind the play. They were sent off for matching minor penalties with about six minutes to play.
With 5:16 to play, at four-on-four, the Rangers pulled Shesterkin for a fifth man on the draw. Erik Haula shot it off the draw, and scored. 4-0, Devils, with over five minutes to play. It took a whole four seconds for the goalie pull to backfire on Gerard Gallant. Later, with 46 seconds to play, Ryan Lindgren went off for slashing Michael McLeod on the rush. Lindy Ruff sent out his second unit to finish the game.
Haula from allllllll the way downtown. pic.twitter.com/Aq9GczbiT5— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 28, 2023
With his shutout, Akira Schmid became the first Devils goaltender to record a postseason shutout since Martin Brodeur.
The Opposition Opinion: Check out Blueshirt Banter.
Were you expecting the New York Rangers to leave it all out on the ice in the third period? Well, they got two shots. After keeping the shots tight through four games, the New Jersey Devils outshot the Rangers 42-23 in Game Five. Even with the Rangers taking more attempts than the Devils at five-on-five, the Devils got in front of so many shots that they had the even strength shots advantage at 27-18.
Did any Devil have a bad game? Let me be the first to say...no, they did not. Even if a couple players got outshot and outchanced, there was no player on the ice who did not contribute in some way. Every player was responsible for positive contributions, both offensively and defensively. Best of all was Akira Schmid, who stopped 23 shots for 2.46 expected goals against. He earned this shutout — certainly after how well he played in Games Three and Four. He made positional saves, he made diving saves — he did it all. Locked in as ever, he’s ready to lead the Devils into Game Six.
Devils Purging Demons
After the Game Two loss, I was very mad at the team for their performance down the stretch as a sea of blue overtook The Rock as “Devils suck” chants were heard throughout the building. Tonight, by the latter stages of the second, the Devils fans were audibly loving what they saw, letting some hearty “Rangers suck” chants ring out, before taunting Igor Shesterkin throughout the third period. While silencing the Garden crowd felt great over the past couple games, this completely solidified their retaking of the home-ice mojo.
Now, the Devils have to seal this up in Game Six. They don’t have to let up, they just need to keep their foot on the gas pedal.
Looking for More
I think what separated tonight from the rest of the games in the series so far was that the Devils were not just looking for a victory, but a far greater one than either of the road games. A goal in the first minute, followed by only four even strength shots allowed in the first period let me know the team walked into the building with their A-game. I was nervous for each of the games before this one. I couldn't wait for this one to start - I wanted nothing more than to fast forward to seeing the Devils win again.
This was not just an ordinary win, but it marked the complete heel-turn the team has made since puck drop in Game One. Kevin Bahl was a monster all night. Erik Haula brought all of his skill and hockey IQ to the table. Timo Meier got under the Rangers' skin, and Dawson Mercer came into his own with a bit of that vaunted Playoff Experience now under his belt. Ondrej Palat, after going weeks without scoring, has goals in two straight games. Damon Severson is playing the best hockey of his life in the biggest spotlight of his career. And Akira Schmid is unflappable, perfectly positioned and ready to make whatever move is necessary to keep the puck out of the net. The Devils are cooking, and I look forward to Saturday night.
What did you think of tonight's game? How did you feel about the team's effort? What do you think is going through their minds right now? Did you think we would be in this spot after how the series started? What players are catching your eye? Leave your thoughts below, and thank you for reading.