NEWARK — And the plot thickens.
Less than two weeks after getting chased out of Madison Square Garden by the New York Rangers, it was the New Jersey Devils who had the last laugh Thursday night as Brian Boyle delivered the game-tying, power-play goal with 8:06 remaining in regulation to force overtime before connecting again along with Kyle Palmieri in the shootout en route to a dramatic, 4-3, come-from-behind victory at Prudential Center in Newark.
Boyle, who spent parts of five seasons with the Rangers before signing with the Devils as a free agent this off-season, stood tall answering questions after pulling out the victory in shootout style.
“This rivalry wouldn’t be what it is without both sides,” Boyle said. “There’s a history there. Fans on both sides. It’s been like that for a number of years. Last time we played them, we weren’t very good in their building so that was an easy way to motivate ourselves. We come back to our building, our fans were excited about it. We could tell. We felt the buzz the last couple of days. I think we wanted to make a statement on what kind of team we are — we want to prove we are for real.”
John Moore gave the home town fans something to cheer about when he put the Devils on the board 7:22 into the game. The lead was short-lived, however, as the Rangers turned the tables — and the tide inside the arena — with two goals 2:04 apart off the sticks of Jimmy Vesey and Nick Holden as New York took a 2-1 lead into the intermission.
“When you get into these situations in very competitive games, it comes down to players making plays,” Devils’ coach John Hynes said.
In the second period, New Jersey fired 23 shots on Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist, more than New York would have the first two periods — combined — (18) but still the Devils searched for a spark. And it was with their backs against the wall on the penalty kill when the unlikely shorthanded play occurred.
Blake Coleman, who has infused energy and excitement into the team all season, scored one of the biggest goals of his blossoming career when the swift, left-handed pivot picked up the puck at center ice and beat Lundqvist over the glove but underneath the crossbar, shorthanded, to knot the game back up at 2-2 to send “both” crowds into a frenzy with 3:36 to go in the second period.
“Blake’s goal was a big goal. It certainly was a momentum-changer, brought energy and life to the team and the building,” Hynes said.
“We were playing from behind but we weren’t getting rewarded for our efforts,” Hynes said. “We talked about that and said we need to be patient with our system and the guys did a good job of executing that.”
The Rangers took their second lead of the game 1:48 into the third period off a fortuitous bounce when Kevin Hayes banked one off one of the Devils players in front to regain a 3-2 advantage.
That set the stage for Boyle.
“I’ve been getting opportunities. The chances come and when you don’t get ’em, it’s frustrating,” Boyle said. “But I was fortunate to get another one — especially on the power play.”
Camped out in front, Boyle took a pass from the corner, turned and fired a backhander past Lundqvist, high glove-side. It was Boyle’s fifth goal in his last seven games.
“This team, we have good players. There’s responsibility there and that’s really important,” Boyle said. “Everybody wants to pull the rope.”
Boyle’s power-play goal, assisted by Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri tied the game up for the second time for New Jersey and sent the game into sudden-death.
In overtime, neither Lundqvist (45 saves) or Devils’ netminder Cory Schneider (25 saves) would bend. But after five minutes the game went to a shootout and someone had to break.
“Cory didn’t have a heavy workload, but he had a hard workload,” Hynes said in his post-game news conference. “The Rangers are a very explosive team, they have a lot of talented players. We got volume tonight, but they had chances and he made some quality saves in the second period to keep the game tight for us.”
Schneider halted Mats Zuccarello and Jimmy Vesey but Mika Zibanejad was able to sneak one by the All-State goalie. At the other end of the rink, Lundqvist matched his counterpart save for save, denying Hall and Drew Stafford. After Boyle beat Lundqvist for the second time in the game, it came down to Kevin Shattenkirk and Schneider did not disappoint, turning aside the final shootout attempt and sending about half the mixed sea of red and blue home happy.
“Fortunately, we were able to capitalize on a few opportunities,” Coleman said. “We were just coming in waves. We emphasized getting bodies to the front of the net, making Hank’s life a little miserable. On a night when the goalie is seeing the puck really well, you have to get a greasy one. Fortunately, I was able to get the shorty and special teams proved to be the difference for us tonight.”
Coleman’s fifth goal of the season, off a set up by defenseman Steven Santini who stepped up into the play, was the Devils’ sixth shorthanded goal this season.
And with the win, the Devils extend their winning streak to three to stand 20-9-5 and tie the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division with 45 points.
The Rangers, meanwhile, see a three-game winning streak of their own come to an end.
The Blueshirts are 19-12-4 and drop back into fourth place but have been playing good hockey after a disastrous start.
“A lot of turnovers, not a lot of speed but we knew that coming in,” Rangers’ forward Rick Nash said. “Early on, we didn’t put pucks in areas we could key on ’em. But at the end of the day, we kept battling and found a way to get a point but it’s still upsetting.
“We’re all pros here,” Nash said. “Two really good teams fighting for every inch out there but give them credit. The first time we played them we caused them to turn the puck over, then they did the same thing to us here tonight.”
The Devils have taken two of three from the Rangers so far this season. Before this evening, the first two games of the season series were played at Madison Square Garden. The Devils and Rangers will do battle again on April 3 at Prudential Center.
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) looks behind for the puck during the second period of the National Hockey League game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers on December 21, 2017, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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