NEWARK — It had been over 10 years since the New Jersey Devils won a playoff series, but with a rookie goaltender and strong special-teams play, the drought is finally over.
Akira Schmid out-dueled Igor Shesterkin with 31 saves while the Devils overwhelmed their arch-rivals on Monday night at the Prudential Center in a 4-0 Game-7 rout.
“Two really good teams going at it. I think I think our speed at the end came through,” Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said. “It was the one thing that we had all year long that when we were up and running and playing well that we were able to get the edge on teams. But to come across the river now and experience it from the side, it’s huge.”
A contest that featured two of the best goaltenders throughout the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoff lived up to its billing in a “winner-take-all” Game 7. Shesterkin and Schmid battled back and forth throughout the first period without allowing a goal and stifling two of the best offenses in hockey.
It wasn’t until Ondrej Palat forced an Adam Fox turnover while shorthanded that Michael McLeod finally solved Shesterkin and gave the Devils the 1-0 lead. Late in the second, Tomas Tatar found a rebound in front of the Rangers’ net and gave his team a 2-0 cushion heading into the final period of play.
“We had an opportunity tonight in Game 7, personally I feel responsible for some of the goals they scored,” Rangers forward Chris Kreider said. “Being a veteran guy, I mean I have to be defensively responsible but can’t be on the ice for all four goals against like that. I beat myself up pretty good.”
From there, Schmid made key save after key save in the final period to keep the Rangers’ high-powered attack frustrated before Erik Haula put the game away with 5:33 to go in regulation to send the Prudential Center into a frenzy.
It was his second straight home shutout for Schmid after beating the Rangers in Game 5 by a 4-0 scoreline, as well.
For the Rangers, with all the talent they acquired at the trade deadline and offseason, they are eliminated from the playoffs without winning a series. Even with the talent they possessed, it simply wasn’t enough for their head coach.
“Talent doesn’t mean a thing,” Gerard Gallant said. ” It’s great to have talent but in the four games we lost we scored two goals. So that’s the bottom line. We could have been better but we played a really good hockey team.”
New Jersey secured its first playoff series win since 2012, when they won the Eastern Conference crown before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. They’re set to battle the Carolina Hurricanes in the conference semis starting on Wednesday night in Raleigh.
- Coming into the contest, the Rangers had been one of the most successful franchises in the NHL in Game 7s. New York had won seven of their last eight before Monday’s loss.
- New York’s inability to score on the power play was a significant reason for the team’s Game 7 loss. Outside of giving up the winning goal shorthanded, the Rangers were 0-for-4 on the man advantage while struggling throughout the night to clear the puck past the neutral zone. “They had some chances but I can’t blame the powerplay when we don’t score any goals,” Gallant said of his man advantage after the game.
- It’s not the first time the Devils have ousted the Rangers in a series at home. During their last playoff run in 2012, New Jersey knocked out New York in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The team returns to that round later in the week against Carolina.
- Before tonight, the Prudential Center hosted just one Game 7 since opening in 2007. The Devils hosted a Game 7 on April 28, 2009, vs Carolina in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals but lost by a 4-3 final.