NEWARK, NEW JERSEY — It was only a matter of time before the third-period magic dust that the New York Rangers have had bagfuls of during their rich vain of form would be sprinkled all over the Prudential Center ice, as the Blueshirts found themselves down for the first time in the final frame during Saturday’s thrill-a-minute contest against the squad that ushered them out of last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The latest late-game brilliance from New York was probably its most impressive of the season, as both Artemi Panarin and Jimmy Vesey scored their second goals of the game in the late stages of their 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers’ fourth straight victory overall. Blake Wheeler added an empty-net goal with 1:33 remaining to seal the victory in the first game between the rivals since Game 7 of the first-round series of last year’s playoffs.
Over the last three games, all victories, the Rangers have dominated the third periods, outscoring their opponents 7-1 in the third period.
“I know that it’s not always 60 minutes of domination, but no game ever is … I like the way that we’ve come out and played and the way we attack games from the start,” Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette said. “I like the fact that we’ve had to fight back in some third period and that we’ve stayed with it. Guys are working hard to win hockey games and that’s all you can ask.”
The Rangers built leads of 1-0 and 2-1 — from goals by Panarin and Vesey — in the first period, only for the Devils to have an answer later in the period to tie the game twice. Only 77 seconds into the third period, New Jersey nosed in front for the first time tonight on a goal from Erik Haula, who pounced on a loose puck down low and backhanded a shot past Rangers goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin.
New York once again showed its resilience, epitomized by center Vincent Trocheck, who tied up Haula on a face-off long enough for Panarin to sneak in and fire a rocket of a wrist shot that surprised, and beat, New Jersey keeper Vitek Vanacek at the 11:04 mark of the the third to restore parity.
Trocheck, who had three assists, also got a point on the game-winner, as a 2-on-1 odd-man rush saw Vesey backhand a rebound from Tyler Pitlick’s shot from the right wing to give New York the 4-3 lead with just 2:49 remaining.
Vesey doubled his goal tally for the season with his two goals tonight, while his fourth-line mates of Pitlick and center Barclay Goodrow saw valuable ice time late in the contest as the Rangers’ depth loomed large again in another comeback.
“We’re a veteran team now. Not every game is going to be perfect. Teams have pushes, penalties, bad breaks, but I think I’ve been impressed all year with the way we’ve stuck with games and kept ourselves in it,” Vesey said. “I’ve been impressed with our resiliency all year.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday evening’s game, with all photos taken by New York-area photographer Scott Rausenberger. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 21 pictures in total.