Rangers thump Devils 5-1, extend winning streak to 9 games

NHL: New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
John Jones-USA TODAY SportsCredit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Alexis Lafreniere scored two goals and Igor Shesterkin made 39 saves to lead the New York Rangers past the New Jersey Devils 5-1 Thursday at Prudential Center.

The victory extended New York’s winning streak to a season-high nine games. The Blueshirts have not lost in the month of February and are 8-0-0 since the NHL All-Star break.

Shesterkin has won five straight starts. He lost his shutout bid when Jack Hughes scored with 2:07 remaining in regulation.

“They obviously had some great opportunities but ‘Shesty’ made some unbelievable saves,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. “Shesty played great tonight.”

Shesterkin was supported by a terrific Rangers penalty kill, which was a perfect 5-for-5 and had the Devils shaking their heads and young defenseman Luke Hughes smashing his stick against the boards in frustration.

The Rangers killed off a five-minute major to Matt Rempe in the first period and a four-minute double minor against Kaapo Kakko in the second. They also scored a power-play goal of their own in the win.

“We must have killed close to a period (15 minutes), so the penalty kill was outstanding tonight,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “Our penalty kill was a big difference in the game. There wasn’t much 5-on-5 play and what there was, we really limited their chances.”

Nico Daws made 13 saves for the Devils, who’ve lost two straight since a 6-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Stadium Series last weekend.

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Rangers win ninth straight, defeat Devils 5-1

NHL: New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
John Jones-USA TODAY SportsCredit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers faced early adversity when Rempe was assessed a match penalty just 2:25 into the game. The towering rookie was tossed from the game for a high hit that left Devils forward Nathan Bastian bleeding and wobbly. But New York persevered with a gritty kill of New Jersey’s five-minute power play.

“Obviously, you don’t want to be put in a spot like that but it happens, and even though it’s five minutes (power play) for them, we’ve still got a lot to gain from it, and we did,” Mika Zibanejad explained. “We really killed their momentum.”

Shesterkin was at his best, keeping the game scoreless by making six saves during the PK, one in which the Rangers had the best scoring chance when Chris Kreider’s left-wing shot off the rush hit the post.

Shortly after killing off Rempe’s major, the Rangers scored the first goal of the game, doing so on a fortuitous power-play bounce. Zibanejad tried to feed a pass to Kreider, but the puck deflected right back to the Rangers center, who slid into the cage for an unassisted goal at 9:14.

Before the first period ended, New York again capitalized on being in the right spot at the time. Jonny Brodzinski pressured Luke Hughes into a turnover deep in New Jersey’s end, and Lafreniere pounced on the loose puck in the slot and whipped it past Daws for another unassisted goal at 17:56.

The Rangers doubled their lead in the middle period. Kreider made it 3-0 by finishing off a beautiful passing sequence started by Shesterkin at 9:53. 

The Rangers goalie made a long pass from his own goal line up right wing, where Artemi Panarin was waiting at the Devils blue line. Panarin sped into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1, which Kreider finished off for his 29th goal of the season and seventh in the past nine games.

Panarin was in the Rangers lineup, as was Jimmy Vesey, after each forward missed practice Wednesday with a lower-body injury. Highly-touted prospect Brennan Othmann was recalled from Hartford of the American Hockey League, took part in warmups just in case, but was scratched when Panarin and Vesey were declared fit to play.

Panarin looked none the worse for wear. He had three assists against the Devils and now leads the Rangers with 78 points (32 goals, 46 assists) in 57 games. He has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in a rousing four-game point streak.

Lafreniere made it 4-0 at 19:20 of the second period when he accepted a Vincent Trocheck pass over the blue line and roofed his second goal of the night and 16th of the season. It marked Lafreniere’s second two-goal game of the season, and first since Nov. 12 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Trocheck scored his 20th goal at 14:29 of the third period to make it 5-0. It’s his third straight 20-goal season and sixth of his NHL career. Like Panarin, Trocheck is hot right now with five goals and seven points in his past four games.

The win was New York’s second in as many games against New Jersey this season after being eliminated by the Devils in seven games in the Eastern Conference First Round last spring.

The Rangers look to make it 10 wins in a row when they visit the Flyers on Saturday.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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