Devils blank Rangers for 1st series win since 2012
- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils won their first playoff series in 11 years, eliminating the rival New York Rangers in Game 7, 4-0, with a dominant defensive effort to claim victory in the Battle of the Hudson.
Rookie goalie Akira Schmid made 31 saves for his second shutout of the playoffs, having taken over as starter in Game 3 with his club trailing at the time, 2-0.
The Devils advance to take on the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, starting Wednesday night in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hurricanes eliminated the New York Islanders in six games.
For the Rangers, it was a frustrating end to a promising season. New York made the Eastern Conference Final last season and loaded up at the NHL trade deadline with star wingers Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko, both pending free agents. They won the first two games of the series in New Jersey, only to see the Devils roll off three straight wins. New York pushed it to a seventh game with a win at home in Game 6, only to fall short.
The Devils took a 1-0 lead on a spectacular bit of penalty killing by Ondrej Palat. With Jesper Bratt in the penalty box for tripping, Palat hounded both defenseman Adam Fox and forward Chris Kreider in their own zone, eventually forcing a turnover. The Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad made a desperation slide to cut off Palat from the Rangers’ net, but he found teammate Michael McLeod with a pass. McLeod sent a slow-motion backhand shot into the net at 9:53 of the second period.
New Jersey made it 2-0 on a play that started with a brilliant rush to the net by defenseman John Marino. Shesterkin made the save, Marino controlled the puck and sent it back towards the crease. That’s where Tomas Tatar quickly flicked the puck behind Shesterkin at 15:39 of the second, and the Devils carried that lead into the second intermission.
The third period saw emotions run hotter after Rangers captain Jacob Trouba administered yet another thunderous hit in the playoffs, as he did several times last postseason. As the Devils’ Timo Meier cut through the middle of the Rangers zone, Trouba tucked his arm in and laid Meier out. The Devils winger was flat on his back until finally leaving the ice on his own for the dressing room. Trouba wasn’t penalized.
The Devils put a dagger in their rivals at 14:27 of the third period on an Erik Haula goal, which sent many of the Rangers fans that had invaded Prudential Center walked towards the exits. Jesper Bratt added an empty netter for the 4-0 win.
For the Devils, the game was a microcosm of the rest of the series — for better and for worse.
They exhibited the lack of discipline that helped the Rangers using their power play to win three games in the series, including the first two in New Jersey. The Devils handed their rivals four power-play chances in the first two periods. They weren’t just tempting fate; they were also keeping their best offensive players off the ice while killing those penalties.
But kill them they did, which was indicative of another series-long trend in the Devils’ wins: Controlling play with their speed, puck possession and defense. They were careful with the puck and patient on their passes. When they needed him, Schmid was there for several key saves. They included high-dangers chances by Artemi Panarin and Kane, and a flashy glove stop on a Vincent Trocheck late in the third period.
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