There were several moments when the Devils’ trademark transition game overwhelmed the Rangers’ defense. The Blueshirts nearly doubled the Devils in the giveaway department 23-12, their most in a game this series. That number must significantly decrease if they want to win game seven.
Still, this was the Shesterkin show, and New Jersey couldn’t do anything to stop it. He made a slew of saves when New Jersey hemmed the Rangers in their end for over a minute following Lazar’s goal. Then, Shesterkin made three point-blank saves on Dawson Mercer, Erik Haula, and Timo Meier when the Devils made a penalty kill feel like a power play in the second period.
When Jack Hughes, booed by the MSG crowd every time he touched the puck, tried to split the Rangers’ defense for another highlight-reel goal, Shesterkin stopped him all nine times. When Tomas Tatar attempted to answer with a quick strike following Tarasenko’s tally, Shesterkin came out to the top of the crease to stonewall him.
Then early in the third, he flashed the leather on Damion Severson to preserve the Rangers’ cushion. Just for good measure, he robbed Nico Hischier in the slot before basking in “Igor” chants name from the adoring crowd.
The unsuccessful attempts forced the Devils’ defenseman to pinch into the offensive zone, which burned them when Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow converted on an odd-man rush. Schmid stopped Vesey’s shot, but Goodrow knocked in the rebound for a rare fourth-line goal, extending the Rangers’ lead to 4-1.
Defenseman Braden Schneider then blasted a point shot for his first goal since January, ending Schmid’s night with 7:23 remaining. “Everybody has their role,” Captain Jacob Trouba told the NY post. “Come this time; it’s everyone. Schneids scoring, we need those contributions. I think our fourth line played great. They chipped in with a goal going to the net. It’s a whole team effort.”
Schmid finished with 24 saves on 29 shots and a -2.1 Goals Saved Above Expected. Mercer scored a power-play goal which became a two man-advantage with five minutes left when Ruff pulled Vanecek for the extra attacker, but the writing was already on the wall. This series is going the distance, and the Rangers, who will be playing their third game seven in the past two postseasons, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It seems like we’re playing a lot of them, unfortunately,” Kreider said. ‘It’s awesome. Whoever you’re playing in Game 7 is gonna be really fun”, Adam Fox said. “We’ve had some experience with it. Being that it’s so close in proximity and a rivalry, it adds a little meaning, but for us, no matter the opponent, it’s do or die.”
ALL EYES ON JERSEY:
The finale will also be the NHL’s final game of round one, as the Toronto Maple Leafs and. Edmonton Oilers secured second-round berths on Saturday night. For Toronto, their 2-1 overtime victory on the road in game six on a goal by captain John Tavares, clinched their first playoff series victory since 2004 and eliminated the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions, Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning vanquished the Rangers in six games in last season’s Eastern Conference Final.
Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings 5-4 on the road in game six and will face the Vegas Golden Knights, who defeated the Winnipeg Jets in five games earlier this week in round two. The Oiler’s victory ensured the Rangers-Devils tilt would start at 8:00 instead of 7:00, as a potential game seven of that series was also slated for Monday.
There are two games seven’s happening on Sunday, as the Florida Panthers will look to complete the 3-1 series comeback and upset the Boston Bruins, who set the regular season record for wins(65) and points(135). Out West, the reigning Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche will look to put away the feisty Seattle Kraken, who are searching for their first playoff series victory in their franchise’s first appearance and second year of existence.
MARV’S 3 STARS:
1 Igor Shesterkin (34 saves on 36 shots, +1.6 Goals Saved Above Expected)
2 Chris Kreider (1 goal, 2 assists, 16:24 of ice time)
3 Mika Zibanejad (1 goal, 1 assist, +2 rating, 2 hits, 1 block, 1 takeaway, 17:00 of ice time)
Honorable Star: Vladimir Tarasenko (1 Goal 1 Assist, +2 rating, 1 takeaway, 15:02 of ice time)
BLS FAN COMMENT OF THE NIGHT:
“Good job staving off total and complete humiliation tonight. The real game is Monday night. Game 7. Let’s hope Kreider has the game of his life again. He has NEVER passed the puck like that in his entire career. Those 2 assists were the difference.” -MoreGrit
WHAT THEY SAID:
“Saturday night’s game was a disaster. The New Jersey Devils now have to go back to Prudential Center for Game 7 after a rough final 40 minutes at the Garden. Igor Shesterkin has been so good in this series. While fans might not want to admit it, experience and goaltending are probably the two most important things regarding this kind of situation. Big players will show up on big nights.” “In net, Schmid had a bit of an off night. He’s certainly not to blame for all the goals. Pulling him, however, was not something that made a lot of sense at the time. We just have to hope it doesn’t impact his confidence because he has to start the next game and has to play like a top-tier goalie or this season is over.”-David Holliday, Pucks and Pitchforks