Rivalry Renewed As Devils Beat Rangers In Final Home Game Of The Season

In the last home game of the 2018-19 season, the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers by a score of 4-2. Although both teams were eliminated from playoff contention, rendering it a mostly useless game, it played out in a way only the Devils-Rangers rivalry could.

Lots of Forechecking

If you watched last night’s game, you might have realized that there was little to no play in the neutral zone. This is contrary to the golden years of the rivalry when the Devils made use of the neutral zone, leading to allegations they were using the dreaded “neutral-zone trap”. Right from the beginning, both teams played a hard forechecking style of hockey that increased the period of time spent around goal creases and against the boards.

The Rangers are a famously high forechecking team, and they came out guns a blazing, outshooting the Devils in the first period almost instantaneously. After the Devils built a 2-0 lead, with the Rangers adding a goal later on, the shots began to even out, and then it was the Devils outshooting their opponents. Final shots on goal were 41-32 in New Jersey’s favor.

The Devils Goals

The Devils were able to put three past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, with the fourth coming as an empty net goal as the third period began to wind down. After an initial barrage of Rangers shots on goal that were directed towards Mackenzie Blackwood, Miles Wood broke the 0-0 tie less than four minutes into the first. His tenth goal of the season was a shot off the right top circle that beat Lundqvist top shelf on the right hand side. In the second half of the period, Travis Zajac would add a power play goal, a redirection off a Damon Severson shot from the blue line for a 2-0 Devils lead.

New Jersey Devils Miles Wood, second from left, celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the second period of an NHL hockey game game, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The Rangers would tie it up with two unanswered goals, and it took until the end of the third period for that tie to break when Connor Carrick scored the game-winning goal. Carrick’s goal came off a pass from Drew Stafford, who fought to keep the puck in the zone after the initial entry. After passing to Carrick, he remained patient before finally shooting the puck when Lundqvist had crouched down closer to the ice enough for the puck to be shot over him.

(Photo by Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News)

Joey Anderson would add an empty net goal as insurance, where Zajac picked up an assist for his second point of the night. Carrick also finished with two points and was named the game’s first star.

The Rangers Goals

At the end of the first, and facing a 2-0 hole against the Devils, the Rangers scored their first goal of the game off a Brett Howden wrist shot. Centerman Connor Brickley passed the puck over to Howden in the neutral zone after the Rangers gained control off the puck off a blocked New Jersey Devils shot in the Rangers zone.

The second goal of the game came when Filip Chytil scored his 11th of the season off a Vinni Lettieri pass on a Rangers’ power play, which happened to be their only power play of the game. It was also the only goal scored during the second period.

Blackwood versus Lundqvist

Blackwood emerged as the winning goaltender, stopping 30 of the 32 shots that came his way. He was able to stop a Brickley breakaway early on, but almost had an additional goal get passed him when a rangers shot bounced off the cross bar and onto the goal line, only to be slapped away by Damon Severson before completely crossing the goal line. Play was temporarily stopped as the officials had a video review.

The real goaltending headline was on the other side of the ice with Henrik Lundqvist. He entered last night’s game just one win away from his milestone 450th win. While when the score was tied, the prospects of him leaving Prudential with that career milestone seem promising, the Devils victory kept the so-called King at 449 wins and made the Rangers delay any celebration.

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. (Getty Images)

The Power Play

The Devils have struggled on the man advantage all season, especially with the likes of Hall and Palmieri missing from the lineup. One of the big stories to break over the past week was the temporary addition of Patrik Elias to the Devils’ coaching staff for their last few games to test the waters of professional coaching, especially on the power play.

The Devils’ first of the game was strong, resulting in the power play goals that seem to have eluded them all season. Their next two attempts weren’t as successful. Not only did they waste the man advantage by not adding a goal, but their efforts were disorganized and lacked the aggression a successful power play needs. Elias may have brought some life to the power play, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

The Rangers only had one power play the entire game. While the Devils are a lot better at killing penalties, their penalty kill failed to do the job as the Rangers scored a power play goal. The game ended with two power play goals, with one for each team.

State of Rivalry

For their last home game in a playoff-less season, it was now or never for the Devils to put on a show for their fans and play their rivals. Last night’s game delivered in every aspect, with the intensity of the rivalry and numerous fights between the two teams. Although, Miles Wood’s decisive loss against Brendan Lemieux, son of Devils Conn Smythe winner Claude Lemieux, was a low spot for the evening.

In a show of solidarity, amidst the usual “Rangers suck” chants that break out of every Devils’ game, there was a moment of unity at last night’s game. After dueling “let’s go Devils” and “let’s go Rangers” chants all night, both fanbases spontaneously united in a “we both suck” chant, poking fun at their team’s respective places in the standings. The comradery was short-lived, as the aggression poured on the ice with the Devils skating off with a win on home ice.

NEWARK, NJ – SEPTEMBER 23: The New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers battle during the first period at the Prudential Center on September 23, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The season might have ended too soon, but the rivalry is better than ever, and certain to be back next season.

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