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I’ve visited Prudential Center exactly once. My significant other and I had attended two Rangers games at MSG on the same trip and figured we would check the place out. I grabbed cheap seats on Ticketmaster well in advance thinking the Devils might sell out their inaugural season in Newark, but I was very mistaken. To be fair, it was one of those weekday matchups against West Coast teams that Carp likes to denigrate. I still found the cavernous nature of “The Rock” humorous. We crammed onto a crowded PATH train and survived the trip as well as the game. Later, only she saved me from mistakenly choosing a Trenton-bound track (the red jerseys should have been a dead giveaway) when we wanted to reach our hotel near New York Penn Station.
1. It’s frustrating to see a prospect like Pavel Buchnevich languishing as a healthy scratch, and I wonder whether he’ll get a chance against Columbus. Meanwhile, Kevin Klein’s back spasms have allowed Adam Clendening to get more action. I certainly understood why Antti Raanta was chosen to play given Sunday’s matchup against the Blue Jackets, who just destroyed the Islanders. It took overtime, but the Rangers triumphed 4-3 over the Devils.
2. It looked like a ton of Ranger fans made the pilgrimage. Raanta acknowledged their heavy presence. The crowd of 16,514 still fell short of qualifying as a sellout. This contest felt like a rollercoaster ride even from the comfort of my couch.
3. John Hynes looks like one of those scary generic coaches from EA’s NHL video games. I have also heard him compared to Harry Potter villain Voldemort.
4. Steve Valiquette didn’t think much of the Devils’ first period chances, saying that Raanta was “playing catch with his father in the backyard right now.” Raanta did make a big left pad save on Travis Zajac about five minutes in.
5. The Rangers got on the board first when Mika Zibanejad battled behind the net to get it to Mats Zuccarello. He in turn passed out to Dan Girardi, whose point shot eventually nicked Chris Kreider’s leg and found the net with Kyle Palmieri and John Merrill in the vicinity. 1-0 Rangers.
6. After the linesman indicated an offside play, J.T. Miller had some words with Steven Santini. I’m no lip reader, but I believe the exact phrase Santini used was “thank you.” Overall, it was not a game of heavy checking: the Rangers had just 11 hits. Marc Staal was the only Ranger defenseman with more than one.
7. Edmonton is all but certain to break a decade-long postseason drought, but I still don’t think Peter Chiarelli won the trade sending Taylor Hall to the Devils in exchange for Adam Larsson.
8. The Rangers seemed to be cooking with gas heading into the first intermission. Nick Holden looked dangerous as he rushed into the offensive zone and dished to Jesper Fast. Fast skated into the circle and froze Cory Schneider with a fake shot. His pass found Oscar Lindberg in front of the opposite faceoff dot for a tap-in past the helpless netminder. 2-0 New York.
9. New Jersey managed three shots in the last 15 seconds of the first period, all of them easily gloved by Raanta.
10. As the second period began, I noticed the Wawa advertisement on the boards near center ice. I’ve never patronized the convenience store chain, but to those of you who watch ABC’s The Goldbergs I will say this: JTP!
11. Sam Rosen was discussing Michael Cammalleri’s struggles to score goals, but that shouldn’t come as a shock. The only reason he had 24 in his first year as a Devil (2014-15) was his shooting percentage of 17.3%.
12. Zuccarello created a scoring chance after Andy Greene fell to the ice, but he couldn’t quite find a passing lane. Soon afterward, J.T. Miller was denied by Schneider from close range. Rick Nash drew attention from the defense on several occasions but was kept off the scoresheet.
13. The game’s first penalty arrived over halfway through the game when Devante Smith-Pelly hauled down Brandon Pirri. As you’d expect, Pirri appeared on a power play unit alongside Miller, Nash, Brady Skjei, and Kevin Hayes. Adam Henrique had a fine shorthanded chance near the end of the power play, but Zuccarello made a nice play to disrupt it. The Rangers rushed the other way but also couldn’t capitalize.
14. Jimmy Vesey isn’t going to win the Calder Trophy, but his play can be mesmerizing. After receiving a pass from Derek Stepan, he showed great skill with the puck. Finally, he skated around the net and cut back toward the blue line, threading the needle for an astonishing feed to Holden who was robbed by Schneider. Then Hall whiffed on a clearing attempt and Hayes nearly scored as well.
15. Just as everything seemed to be going right, the shutout ended. Ryan McDonagh in particular had been doing a fine job limiting chances against. After Merrill missed wide, one-time Ranger P.A. Parenteau gathered the puck and pushed it to Beau Bennett. Bennett played it along the boards to Henrique behind the net, who burned Lindberg and Raanta for a wraparound goal. Even considering how well the Rangers had played to that point, it was a frustrating goal to allow within the last hundred seconds of the second period. 2-1 Rangers.
16. All hell broke loose after the second intermission. Not thirty seconds into the third, Hall was facing his own net when he backhanded a pass to Zajac, who moved the puck to Palmieri as they headed into the Ranger zone. Palmieri then snapped one from the from the edge of the left circle that hit off Raanta and in. I’d classify that one as a bad goal, and Raanta definitely looked frustrated. The game was tied 2-2.
17. Kreider exacerbated the situation by putting the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. The Devils capitalized immediately after Zajac won the faceoff against Miller. Greene slapped a shot toward Palmieri, who stood in the slot and redirected the puck into the top left corner. Alain Vigneault issued a challenge on the basis of goalie interference, and indeed Miles Wood did make some contact with Raanta as the puck headed toward the crease. In accordance with New York Lottery law, the goal was upheld. Improbably, Palmieri had scored twice in less than a minute and the Devils led 3-2.
18. The Rangers went right back to the box courtesy of a Vesey trip. Judging by Vigneault’s reaction, he wasn’t a proponent of the call either. Nevertheless, only Cammalleri tested Raanta on the ensuing power play.
19. Michael Grabner’s 26 goals are still mighty impressive especially considering his expected role, but this was his fifth straight without a point.
20. Clendening registered six shots, but his best could be categorized as “better late than never.” With under five minutes remaining, Zibanejad won a battle along the boards and got the puck to Kreider, who circled around the New Jersey net and spotted Clendening for a one-timer that he zipped stick side past Schneider. He admitted to “trying to get it off my stick as quickly as I could.” The game was deadlocked 3-3.
21. For a third straight game, to overtime we would go. Palmieri made a bid for a hat trick after a Henrique pass off the boards sprung him for a breakaway. In a save reminiscent of Lundqvist in Toronto, Raanta slid to his right and stuffed the speedy winger’s shot for his 36th save. If that wasn’t enough, Palmieri regrouped behind the net and Raanta had to dive across the crease as his next shot attempt soared over the cage.
22. Skjei has piled up the assists this season, and his 27th was a big one. He helped force the Palmieri miss and shuttled the puck ahead to Zibanejad in front of the New Jersey blue line. Damon Severson tried to harass him but was too far behind to create a problem. Zib dummied a slap shot before moving closer to the net and popping a changeup through Schneider’s legs. It found its way along the ice into the left side of the Devils’ net, and the Rangers celebrated a 4-3 victory.
23. While one fan of the home team covered his eyes in disbelief, Zibanejad was obviously relieved to get his first goal since January 17. He appeared to score last weekend against Washington, but was stripped of that tally after a Barry Trotz challenge. Zibanejad also was happy to atone for a mistake that led to the Palmieri overtime chance: “I had to redeem myself after that letdown.”
24. I am not a fan of the Penguins as a franchise, but I will admit to having a soft spot for the actual penguins that were brought to Heinz Field for their outdoor game.
My Rangers Three Stars: