Photo Credit: Dave Janosz

Devils Suffer First Preseason Loss to Rangers

On Friday night at the Prudential Center, the New Jersey Devils hosted the New York Rangers for the second of back-to-back preseason games against their rivals from across the Hudson River. New Jersey came into tonight's game on fire following their 5-2 win over the Rangers the previous night.

Early on in the game, one of the best signs for New Jersey was the play of their second-overall draft pick Simon Nemec on their blueline. This was also a chance for fans to see a new first line centered by alternate captain Jack Hughes, which also featured free agent signing, Ondrej Palat on the left wing and 2020 first-round draft pick, Alexander Holtz on the right side.

The first period was all Rangers, as the Blueshirts peppered Mackenze Blackwood with 17 shots, but the Devil netminder was there to deny the Rangers at every impasse and keep the game scoreless heading into the first intermission.

New Jersey Takes the Lead

Last season was a big year for Devils alternate captain Jack Hughes. He scored thirty goals after missing most of the beginning of the season due to an injury and tonight he picked up where he left off.

A little more than two minutes into the second period, the Rangers were struggling to get the puck out of their zone and that was when Devils winger, Ondrej Palat pounced on a loose puck at the goal-line and sent a cross-ice pass to the opposite circle for Jack Hughes. The captain bobbled the pass initially but had plenty of time to settle the puck and step into a wrist shot that sailed over Louis Domingue’s blocker side and into the net to put the Devils on the board first.

 

The Rangers controlled the puck inside their offensive zone for much of the first period yet, despite this, near the end of the second period, the Rangers looked sluggish, and it was the home team, the Devils that had begun to outskate and control the game-flow.

The Rangers almost struck back on an odd man rush near the end of the second period. The center of last year’s Ranger ‘Kid-line’ Filip Chytil carried the puck in on a two-on-one with fellow young gun Kravstov but when the dish came to Kravstov, he could not one-time Blackwood smothered it and his shot. That was all she wrote in the third period at ‘the Rock,’ and it was the Devils who now found themselves with a slim lead heading into the final period of play in this preseason game against their arch-rivals.

Third Period from 'The Rock'

They say the worst lead in hockey is a two-goals but what that wise person left out is that a one-goal lead is worse. Just under four minutes into the third period, Artemi Panarin tied the game for the Blueshirts when he received a cross-ice pass and had too much time to shoot a wrister past Blackwood.

Then about halfway through the period, the Rangers scored again. Ranger forward Dryden Hunt carried the puck into the Devils zone down to the half boards and feathered a backhand pass to the point to defenseman, K’Andre Miller. The Ranger defenseman took a wrist shot that was saved by Blackwood but ended up falling behind the Devils goaltender and over the goal line.

After this the Rangers kept coming and at 5:04 Mackenze Blackwood made a great save on Julien Gauthier right in front of the Devils goal. The Devils made one last push with about 30 seconds left in the game.

With 2 minutes to go, the Rangers took a penalty and shortly into the power play, the Devils pulled their goalie which gave them a six-on-four man advantage.  Palat made a pass to Hughes who was open in front of the Rangers net but could not corral it and a grade-A scoring chance went by the wayside. The Devils had one more chance to tie the game before regulation ended but Braden Schneider dove and was able to stop the pass from reaching Andreas Johnsson who was open near the Rangers net.

Postgame Thoughts from the Devils

Despite Jack Hughes putting the Devils in front first, the Rangers took this game 2-1 on two third-period goals. After the game, Devils goalie, Mackenze Blackwood who played the entire game and made 30 saves on 32 shots, discussed the goal that ended up deciding the game.

Tough way to lose a game but that’s hockey. Sometimes we’ll be on the right end of those. Tonight, we weren’t but just trying to do the right thing so that more often than not you’re getting the right bounces.

The Rangers dominated the first period where they outshot the Devils heavily. However, the Devils head coach Lindy Ruff described that this was a learning experience for his team.

You need to be in those type of games. Our team needs to play in periods where you get dominated. I thought we were dominated [in the first period] then we came back with a good second. The second and third were even. We missed some good opportunities, our compete was better, puck movement. I told the team after the first period, that was all their period now we got to answer the bell.

What's Next for the Devils

This game may have been a disappointing defeat against a rival team for the Devils fans, but it will certainly serve their young players well going forward. Fans can go to 'The Rock' to again and watch the Devils take the ice, Monday at 7:00 PM when the Devils take on the Bruins in their next preseason game.

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Anthony graduated from Montclair State University, where he covered a variety of sports for three years. He co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on campus radio station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.