Four for Four: Rangers cool red-hot Devils, earn fourth straight win.


Recently, Lucas Standel published a piece here asking, “Where did the No Quit in NY mentality go?” While I do not know the mantra’s previous whereabouts, what we can say after Monday’s enthralling 4-3 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils courtesy of a Filip Chytil game-winner, which upped the winning streak to four, is that it’s back for the New York Rangers.

It was a win ripped straight out of last season, where the Rangers arrived late to the show, were quickly in a two-goal hole, and needed their Vezina-winning goaltender to keep them in the contest before they got their act together. But once they did, it was a glorious display of resolve that revived Madison Square Garden, eventually leading to a breathtaking comeback from a 3-1 down that snapped the scalding Devils ‘ eleven-game road win streak.

In the early going,  two Jacob Trouba turnovers directly led to two Devils’ goals. The first came after a giveaway led to a Tomas Tatar chance that was squeezed by Igor Shesterkin setting up a faceoff. Off the ensuing draw, Jonas Siegenthaler shot one from the wall that snuck through some bodies and was tipped into the net by Nico Hischier for a quick 1-0 New Jersey lead just 3:05 into the game.

But if that weren’t enough, Trouba would succumb to pressure from Erik Haula while trying to clear the puck, and it was promptly turned into a goal for Dawson Mercer, doubling the Devils’ lead less than five minutes into the contest.

It was a role reversal from the last time these two teams met on November 28, where the Rangers boasted out to a quick lead before New Jersey rallied for a 5-3 victory, so there was a sliver of hope at the moment the Blueshirts could replicate their rivals’ actions and do the same to them.

However, halfway through the first period, New York still found themselves without a shot on goal, eliciting boos from the crowd and a switch of the lines by the irate head coach Gerard Gallant and assistant Gord Murphy. Defensively, Trouba was dropped to the third line to play with Libor Hajek, while the budding Braden Schneider was bumped up to play with K’Andre Miller on line two.

In regards to the forwards, the kid line of Alexis Lafreniere, Chytil, and Kappo  Kakko reunited while Artemi Panarin played with Mika Zibanejad and Barclay Goodrow on the first unit. But ironically, it was the unchanged third line that got the Rangers going, as with 1:35 left in the frame,   Chris Kreider deposited the two-on-1 feed from Vincent Trocheck on a play where each Blueshirt on the ice touched the puck, slicing the deficit to 2-1 after the first period.

Akin to how the deadly duo connected to increase the Devils’ lead in their first meeting, Mercer and Hughes were at it again in the second period, as a clear led to an outlet for Hughes, and he didn’t miss it, roofing a backhander up top to make it a 3-1 New Jersey.

The top pick from the 2019 draft didn’t stop there and again shook free minutes later, only to be tripped by Schneider, setting up a penalty shot. “If he put that in, that probably would’ve been the nail in the coffin,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said, “But it was stopped, and it probably gave them a sense of confidence moving forward.”

It looked as if Hughes had the reigning Vezina-winner beat as he had Shesterkin leaning one way, but Igor stuck the stick out at the last moment to poke the puck away and keep his team relatively alive. Following their goalkeeper’s heroic act, the Blueshirts picked up their play. They generated a power play, which they capitalized on when Vincent Trocheck deflected home Adam Fox’s clapper to make it a one-goal game again.

The fans were settling down after singing the goal song before swift passing off the draw from Chytil, and Miller culminated with a game-tying blast from Kaapo Kakko — and then a dog-pile celebration that an elated Alexis Lafreniere fell over as he, the team, and the fans celebrated the two goals in seven seconds that had tied things up.

After a conservative third period which saw neither team give up much, though the Devils outshot the Rangers 9-4 and had a few odd-man rushes off of turnovers that Shesterkin stonewalled, the game went to overtime.

With 3:00 minutes to go in the bonus period, Igor robbed Damon Severson in the slot after a wide Mercer shot off the boards came back to him, and the crowd showered the netminder with the classic “Igor” chants, showing appreciation for his efforts despite the three goals that got by him in this one. Then with 2:15 left, Miller got the puck to Panarin, who dropped it back to Chytil for the walk-off tally, which sent the garden into a frenzy.

This guy did everything right amid his promotion on Monday night. He played with K’Andre Miller on the second line after beginning the evening with Libor Hajek as his partner. While part of the reason for the move was Jacob Trouba’s poor play, that doesn’t take away from the brilliance of the Blueshirts’ homegrown 21-year-old.

After scoring the Rangers’ lone regulation goal on Friday(Which earned him the second star in my book behind Shesterkin), Schneider was effective again on Monday, as he registered a crucial block on a New Jersey odd-man rush in the third. He even took what coaches would call a “good penalty,” tripping up Jack Hughes on a breakaway to set up the penalty shot, which Igor stopped, and the tired turned from there.

The reigning Vezina winner didn’t make 41 saves as he did in Friday’s 2-1 shootout win over the Avalanche in Colorado, yet he was equally as effective in this one. The goaltender was lights out over the game’s final 33 minutes, including his poke check to deny Jack Hughes on the penalty shot, numerous big saves in the third period, and overtime until the Blueshirts found their hero.

The center scored the overtime goal and assisted on Kappo Kakko’s game-tying goal in the second period. Chytil’s even strength points per 60 are up to an elite 2.85, ahead of names like Matthews, Marner, Rantanen & Kucherov.

The 23-year-old, in his 5th season as a Ranger, is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent this summer, which is concerning considering New York’s impending 2023-24 cap crunch. Nights like these, though, are why Rangers fans should want him back.

Next. The kids are breaking out. dark