Lee Stempniak celebrates a go-ahead goal in the second period to give the Devils a 3-2 lead.
Henrik Lundqvist stole the Prudential Center’s nickname on Tuesday night. The King was a Rock. Unfortunately, as Derek Stepan explained, the Devils “outworked” the Rangers during the decisive second period of a 5-2 loss in Newark, a 20-minute stretch that coach Alain Vigneault said “could have been our worst period of the year, not to take anything away from Jersey.”
“I don’t know what happened. Seriously,” Lundqvist said after a sparkling 31-save performance could not prevent the desperate Devils (30-24-7, 67 points) from snapping a three-game losing skid. “You could tell they were hungry. This was a very important game for them, but it was the same for us.
We had an opportunity to distance ourselves from them, and we didn’t grab that opportunity.”
Lundqvist was under siege, facing frequent Devils breakways, odd-man rushes, and traffic in front. He was the only reason John Hynes’ club didn’t hang eight or nine on the board. This is the second time in three games the Rangers have been totally outworked in a period, including last Friday night’s embarrassing first 20 minutes against a tanking Maple Leafs team in Toronto with Antti Raanta in net.
It’s a good ole fashioned Rangers-Devils game as J.T. Miller and Sergey Kalinin throw some punches.
Vigneault took a blowtorch to the suggestion that the absence of last-minute scratch Marc Staal (lower-body) and captain Ryan McDonagh (neck spasms, jaw bruise) from his blue line excused his healthy veterans. “I don’t think so,” Vigneault said. “Yands (Keith Yandle) stepping up and not picking up that pass. Dan (Boyle) shooting on the pass and them going on the breakaway. Kleiner (Kevin Klein) not holding the front of the net on the power play.
Those are all veteran players, veteran defensemen.”
Henrik Lundqvist allows four goals but makes 31 stops as he was peppered by the Devils all night.
Vigneault had four rookies in his lineup, including defenseman Brady Skjei in his third career NHL game and forward Marek Hrivik (assist) in his second-ever appearance. Some of the greatest offenders for the Rangers (34-20-6, 74 points), however, were regular starters such as Boyle (minus-three), Chris Kreider (minus-two) and Mats Zuccarello (minus-two).
Devils left wing Sergey Kalinin recorded a Gordie Howe Hat Trick with a goal, an assist and a fight, while Vezina candidate Cory Schneider (17 saves) made a jaw-dropping, cross-crease stick save on Rangers left wing J.T. Miller at 10:50 of the second period to snuff out a goal that could have stopped the bleeding. “For me, it was probably Schneider’s save on Miller that made the difference,” said Rangers center Derick Brassard, who wore an “A” on his sweater with Staal and Nash out. “They probably got —- from their coach after the first period. You have to expect that from a team that’s battling for the playoffs. They brought it to us in the second. Maybe they caught us off-guard.”
The Rangers led, 2-1, at first intermission on goals from Kevin Hayes and Dominic Moore 45 seconds apart. But the Devils got goals from Tyler Kennedy, Kyle Palmieri on the power play, Lee Stempniak, Kalinin and Adam Larsson on a late empty-netter. They outshot the Rangers 17-5 in the second. Miller tried to wake up the Rangers with one second left in the second by fighting Kalinin, but he was ejected with a five-minute match penalty for having tape on his right hand and cutting Kalinin as a result during the bout.
Skjei (22:17 ice time) helped the Rangers kill off seven minutes of power-play time to open the third period, but the Rangers slipped to 1-2-1 to conclude the season series.
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