NEWARK — For all the talk about the inexperience of the Devils, perhaps that was what helped them along the way in their first-round victory over their Metropolitan Division rival in the Rangers.
The Devils eliminated the Blueshirts, the more star-studded and veteran team, on Monday night in a shutout win at Prudential Center that will be one to remember for New Jersey fans for quite some time. After the Devils dropped the first two games of the series by a combined score of 10-2, they turned the tables in a way few teams have done before in the postseason by outscoring New York 15-7.
“I think we got a big lesson in the first two games,” forward Tomas Tatar said. “It’s a playoff and the hockey is a little different. We have to be a lot more patient. I think Rangers surprised us a little bit. We were trading chance for chance with them in the season They buckled down [in the playoffs] and they played good defensively.
“It surprised us, but we took that lesson very fast and with that young of a group, it is impressive how we figured it out. Started playing different hockey and turned this series around.”
Game 7 on Monday night was just another example of what the Devils were able to accomplish.
Goaltender Akira Schmid played outstanding yet again, making 31 saves in his second shutout of the series. The Devils held the Rangers to just six shots in the opening 20 minutes and allowed New York just five high-danger chances all night at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick.
“We came out good in the first period, obviously, it’s easy when you have your fans, your home crowd,” star forward Jack Hughes said. “That’s why home ice is so important. So we were really excited to play at home and then we get that first goal. Like we start to get on and you think you can roll over top of them.
“We’re also a pretty young team, so some people would be like, ‘oh, inexperienced.’ But really we don’t know better. We just play and we do the best we can. We came out tonight and we did that.”
Maybe that was the secret to what helped change the series for New Jersey after a rough two games. Despite the inexperience, the Devils found new life when the series shifted to Manhattan and their crucial Game 3 win in overtime seemed to give the group a new sense of confidence.
The Devils have a mix of veteran talent on their roster that have made deep playoff runs before, including Ondrej Palat who helped set up the second New Jersey goal of the night.
“I’m impressed that we grew as a team in this series,” Palat, who helped dispatch the Rangers last year in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Tampa Bay Lightning, said.
And oddly enough, the series mirrored the way the regular season started for the Devils, losing the first two games of the year. For Ruff, Monday’s series-clinching win was a reminder of just how well his team has dealt with adversity.
“I said it this morning, this team has no quit,” Ruff said. “They give me everything they have and they were able to adjust to some things that we wanted to change. I thought we fought through some adversity with penalties in the first period when I thought we were playing really well. It was the only negative, but again, are game is speed and I thought that was evident.”