New York’s ability to hold leads seems to fluctuate, but despite holding a 3-1 lead in this one, the Rangers become the first team to lose as a visitor to New Jersey since December 6th. It snaps the Rangers’ winning streak and highlights some fears about this roster. There is no doubt that the Blueshirts should not have been in this game, to begin with, and the entire roster owes Igor a steak dinner.
Igor Shesterkin was spectacular as he turned down 40 of 44. Despite a stark workload, the Rangers’ reigning Vezina winner was more than up to the task. His only worry in this game came when Miles Wood ended up landing on the outstretched leg of the Russian but he got up to shake it off and keep giving the Rangers a shot to win a game that they had absolutely no right to be in. Nothing short of spectacular from the Blueshirts all-star.
For the rest of the team, there were highs and lows. I want to start with Julien Gauthier who had a highlight reel goal in the second period as he undressed half the state of New Jersey before depositing the puck between the outstretched pad of Vitek Vanecek and the post to double the Rangers lead at that point. It was a strong game in terms of generation from the Rangers’ offense.
Jimmy Vesey’s goal to open the scoring in this one was also a work of art. A beautiful tip pass to gain the zone let Vesey pick up the puck and dance around a defender before firing past the Devils’ netminder to score against his former team. Vesey scoring on that third line does provide some hope for the rosters layout ahead of the deadline and if he can continue to produce, maybe eclipse the 20-goal mark, he adds a lot of depth as a swiss army knife.
New York’s discipline cost them in this game as they were penalized four times and it cost them a goal when Jesper Bratt fired home a mistle on the powerplay to make it 3-2 Rangers. If the Rangers want to keep winning games, they need to learn to stay out of the box and keep the game 5-on-5. They’re not a fantastic 5-on-5 team, but they are better at even strength than they are shorthanded.
This overtime defeat opens the gap up to the Devils to 2 points. Although the Rangers sit just a point above the Capitals, the Blueshirts have an extra game to play so they shouldn’t be in any danger in terms of falling out of the playoff places at this moment in time. It still isn’t reassuring to see the Rangers choke a game like this. Hopefully, next time out against Minnesota at the Garden will help.