NEW YORK — Game 7. Those two words are the greatest things to hear in sports and it’s where the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are heading.
The Rangers received 33 saves from Igor Shesterkin while Mika Zibanejad came through with his first playoff goal of the series to lift his team to a 5-2 win over the visiting Devils Saturday night.
“I thought we played real good hockey. We battled hard and competed hard. Went to the blue paint and got some goals there. When you’re backs are against the wall you play your best game and I thought they did tonight,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said.”
A rambunctious crowd at Madison Square Garden wasn’t enough to will the Rangers to a fast start early. After failing on the power play for the 14th straight try, the Rangers allowed a big rebound in front of the crease to Curtis Lazar who finished in front for his first goal of the playoffs and as a Devil.
“I thought we dominated the first period. We had them exactly where we want them. I thought five on five we were doing a great job of skating with the puck and moving the puck up ice. We’ve got to continue to do that,” Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said.
New Jersey’s 1-0 lead would evaporate late in the first though. After Dawson Mercer tripped Patrick Kane on a breakaway attempt, Zibanejad found Chris Kreider off a rebound to get the MSG crowd back on their feet to a tied score. For Kreider, it was the 16th goal scored in an elimination, tying him with former Rangers’ great Mark Messier for the top spot in NHL history.
New York’s momentum would bleed into the second period with Zibanejad scoring in front of the net for his first playoff goal of the series. It couldn’t have come at a better time either as it gave the Rangers a 2-1 advantage. Vladimir Tarasenko, who had an assist on the Zibanejad goal would add his third of the series to the tally to make it 3-1 at the end of two periods.
“It was a good team effort. Just try to give our best and we’ll see what happens. The last few games weren’t too good for us but I think we played well today and we’ll focus on the next one,” said Tarasenko.
Goals from Barclay Goodrow and Braden Schneider in the third period were more than enough to turn Game 6 into a 5-1 lead that had the team thinking about their final showdown just days away.
Game 7 is scheduled for Monday night at the Prudential Center. It’s the third Game 7 the Rangers will see in their last two playoff appearances winning both during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Penguins and Hurricanes.
“We’ve been on the spot before playing Game 7’s on the road and we have to do the same thing again,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba concluded. “Season’s on the line and we have to bring our A game.”
- Kreider’s had 16 goals dating to the start of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs alone. The only Rangers player with more goals over a span of two postseasons is Brian Leetch through the 1994-95 season.
- Gallant made some quick adjustments to his lineup in several ways before Saturday’s contest. On the power play, Tarasenko ran with the first group while Artemi Panarin worked on the third line with Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko. Patrick Kane on the other hand worked with Vincent Trocheck and Alexis Lafreniere.
- New York’s power play drought may have ended Saturday night but their troubles weren’t necessarily over. New York went 1/4 on the man advantage in Game 6 and is 3/21 since a 2/3 night in Game 1.
- In the three wins the Rangers have had over the Devils in this series, they have dominated on the scoresheet to a 14-3 combined tally.
- For the first time since making his appearance in Game 3, the Rangers solved Akira Schmid and tattooed him for five goals. Vitek Vanecek replaced the rookie late in the contest.