On the brink of extinction and staring at an extended Summer, the New York Rangers stars finally showed up.
Chris Kreider redirected home his fifth power-play goal of the series, Mika Zibanejad scored his first of the playoffs, Vladimir Tarasenko added a crucial insurance tally, and Igor Shesterkin made 34 saves as the Blueshirts defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-2, forcing a winner-take-all game seven on Monday night at 8 PM at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
In the 48 hours between their 4-0 loss in game five and game six, the Rangers emphasized the importance of not surrendering an early goal, which the Devils had done in games four and five before coasting from there.
So when Curtis Lazar registered his first point as a Devil since they acquired him at the trade deadline from the Vancouver Canucks, pouncing on a rebound at 11:49 of the first period, which gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead, the boisterous Madison Square Garden crowd went silent.
“They came out and had a really good push and were able to generate some zone time, but I think we did a good job of staying patient, maintaining lanes, getting pucks out when we could, and eventually getting our looks,” Kreider told lohoud.com. “It was just a matter of staying patient and sticking with our game.”
It didn’t come without help, as a Dawson Mercer tripping penalty on a Patrick Kane breakaway late in the opening stanza gave New York a power play where they would snap their 0 for 14 skids.
A Zibanejad one-timer attempt redirected off of Kreider’s leg sending the Garden into a frenzy.
The tally got the Rangers off and running, as they chased Devils goaltender Akira Schmid with five unanswered goals after being unable to break him for 97:55. The barrage brought the rookie goaltender back to earth after he stoned the Blueshirts for three straight contests and officially gave Devils head coach Lindy Ruff, second thoughts of who to start in game seven.
He could either turn to Vitek Vanecek, who won 33 games in the regular season and brought them to the playoffs before yielding nine goals in the first two games of the series, or stick with a potentially rattled Schmid. Regardless of who he chooses, New York undoubtedly has the advantage between the pipes.
Igor Shesterkin was the difference in game six with 34 saves on 36 shots and must be again for New York to advance to a second-round rematch with the Carolina Hurricanes, who eliminated the New York Islanders on Friday night in six games.