The New York Rangers completed the sweep of the New Jersey Devils with a 5-3 victory on Sunday afternoon. The Rangers were forced to make a few lineup changes due this game being the second half of a back to back. Firstly, Alexandar Georgiev started the game in goal replacing Igor Shesterkin who started on Saturday. Anthony Bitetto came in on the third defensive pair in place of Libor Hajek. The game was really all over the place with the Devils dominating at the start of the game and the end of the game. The Rangers dominated the middle of the game and did just enough to come away with the victory.
Back and Forth in the First Period
The Devils dominated the start of the first period, with Georgiev facing several tough tests over the first five minutes. That storm was weathered rather quickly thanks to a power play goal from Chris Kreider. From that point forward the Rangers held most of the play, though the Devils outshot the Rangers 12-6 in the first period. Vitali Kravtsov forced a turnover in the offensive zone, Brett Howden collected the puck and fed it back to Kravtsov who shot a one-timer past Mackenzie Blackwood for his first NHL goal. The Rangers took that 2-0 lead to the locker room, but not before Alexandar Georgiev suffered a minor injury late in the first period.
Tide Turns in the Second Period
Georgiev returned for the second period and continued to play well as the Rangers’ kids line got some offense going against the Devils. Kaapo Kakko gave a little touch pass to Filip Chytil who backhanded a pass across the slot to Alexis Lafrenière. Lafrenière kicked the puck from skate to stick and backhanded a shot past Blackwood to make it 3-0. The Rangers played a very sound second period. However, with around a minute left, K’Andre Miller turnover led to a P.K. Subban shot from the point that got redirected. Georgiev made the original save, but Mikhail Maltsev got to the rebound to make it 3-1 at the end of the second.
Pulling Out a Tough Win in the Third
The Devils came out dominant in the third period, trying to avoid the sweep at the hands of the Rangers. Just 1:53 into the third period, Marian Studenic picked up the puck and released a shot past Georgiev, 3-2 Rangers. Just four minutes later, Bitetto lost his assignment, leading to a partial two-on-one for the Devils. Nicholas Merkley made a perfect pass to Nico Hischier who shot the puck past Georgiev, game tied at three. The Devils dominated for much of the rest of the game, but Ryan Murray high-sticked Kakko late in the third. On the ensuing power play, Mika Zibanejad rifled home a shot from the slot. The goal gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead, the game winning goal on Zibanejad’s birthday. With the Devils’ net empty, Subban hooked Ryan Strome on a breakaway awarding an automatic goal, 5-3 Rangers win.
A Look at the Playoff Race
The Rangers’ current four game winning streak is massive in keeping their playoff hopes alive. The Bruins’ own four game winning streak has helped them keep the Rangers at bay, as the Rangers are still four points back of Boston who has two games in hand. The Rangers have other ways into the playoffs, whether it’s through the Islanders or even the Penguins. The Rangers will trail the Islanders by either eight or six points after the completion of tonight’s Islanders game. New York takes on the Islanders three more times, meaning that if it is a six point deficit behind the Islanders, the Rangers have a big opportunity to make things interesting. The Rangers will get their first crack at the Islanders on Tuesday night on Long Island.