NEW YORK — Ladies and gentlemen, we have a series now.
Dougie Hamilton’s overtime score highlighted a 35-save playoff debut from Akira Schmid as the New Jersey Devils outlasted the New York Rangers in overtime 2-1 Saturday night.
“I told you guys that I believe in our group. Believe in what we’ve done. It’s the first big dance for a lot of these players. Didn’t know how they would react and I thought we came out in the start of the first period and it was a good start for us,” Devils Head Coach Lindy Ruff said after the win. “When we’ve been challenged and we’ve been down, we’ve always answered the call this year. You look at the game tonight that was a tough hockey game. It was a game. There wasn’t a lot of giving up opportunities either way.”
In a game that New Jersey couldn’t afford to lose, neither team’s offense gained much traction throughout the contest. The Rangers used another 26-save night from Igor Shesterkin to keep New Jersey’s offense at bay for the most part but the night belonged to Schmid becoming the first rookie goalie to start a playoff game for the Devils since Martin Brodeur in 1994.
Still, it was the Rangers who struck first when a Mika Zibanejad-caused turnover turned into a Chris Kreider goal to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the second period. The fifth goal in three games for Kreider made him the first player in Rangers history to have five or more goals through the first three games of a playoff year.
From there though, the Devils began to attack aggressively and the Rangers’ composure began to crack. After a series of scrums that saw Shesterkin punch Timo Meier as the latter crashed into the crease and the goaltender, Jack Hughes finally found the back of the net on the ensuing powerplay to tie the score at one.
Both teams would get several chances in the final period and overtime to try and pull off the winning goal yet both Shesterkin and Schmid though remained strong. It wasn’t until Jesper Brratt found a cutting Hamilton 11 minutes into the extra period that ended Game 3 and sent the fans at Madison Square Garden home disappointed.
For Bratt and the Devils, it was the first time the team had scored a five-on-five goal through the entire series to that point, and ended up being Schmid’s first career playoff win.
“I thought it was an excellent hockey game,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said. “We weren’t as smooth, as crisp. I thought we passed up some scoring chances, especially in the first half of the game. But overall I thought we played a really good game.”
For the Devils, the overtime goal brings them back into the series – trailing the Rangers 2-1 with Game 4 scheduled for Monday night at The Garden at 7:00 pm – ET.
- Down in the series, Devils head coach Lindy Ruff made the decision to make a switch with his goalies. Schmid – the fifth-round selection from the 2018 NHL Draft received the start over Vitek Vanecek. New Jersey’s original starter through the first two games of the series, gave up a 4.52 GAA and a .827 save percentage.
- Unlike the previous two contests in the series, New York went 0-5 on the powerplay with fewer shots being scored after each failed attempt. Frustration was shown on the face of many players after the fourth man-advantage resulted without a score. After the game, Mika Zibanejad was more relaxed about the team’s inefficiency Saturday night “I thought I had three or four chances in the first one and it just didn’t go in. I think we can do a better job of creating a little bit more momentum.”
- Hughes’ powerplay goal was the third special team goal scored by the Devils during the three games. Before that, the Devils were just 1-9 on the powerplay through the three games of this series.
- Outside of Hughes and Hamilton, Meier was arguably the most dominant player on the ice for the Devils. The former Shark tallied two hits, a blocked shot, and a takeaway in over 19 minutes of ice time. Meier also drew a penalty in what was the tying score in the second period.