NEWARK, N.J. — If the adage that states previous records and results be thrown out before a match-up of sporting rivals has merit, every member of the New Jersey Devils might have run toward the nearest window before chucking the current NHL standings out of it in the lead-up to tonight’s get-together with New York City’s “big brother.”
After six consecutive losses to begin the season, New Jersey finally righted the ship on Thursday as five different goal scorers tallied in a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers at the Prudential Center. Goalkeeper Mackenzie Blackwood made 29 saves in a first-star performance, one which also produced the Devils’ long-awaited first win of the 2019-2020 season – the last of the 31 NHL teams this campaign to register in the win column.
The sight of the Blueshirts on the ice added extra motivation, and the Devils responded quickly after falling behind 1-0 on a Tony DeAngelo goal just 6:02 into the contest. Blake Coleman’s long-range shot trickled past the legs of Rangers goalkeeper Alexandar Georgiev at 12:58 to tie the score at 1-1.
Just over two minutes in the second period elapsed before Kyle Palmieri roofed a shot over Georgiev on the power play – New Jersey’s first extra-man up tally this season – in giving New Jersey the lead for good. The Devils doubled their lead at 12:25 of the second, when a Matt Tennyson shot from the point was deflected by both Jack Hughes and Miles Wood before going into the net. Wood celebrated his first goal of the season, while Hughes, the No. 1 overall draft pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, earned his first-career NHL point.
Jesper Fast’a goal at 2:22 in the third cut the lead to one, and the Rangers had a glorious chance to tie a few minutes afterward as Mika Zibanejad sent a wrist shot wide of Blackwood on a partial breakaway.
The bounces that went against New Jersey in the first two weeks came back to benefit the Devils midway through the third, as Artemi Panarin’s stick breaking on his attempt to clear the puck in the defensive zone allowed Nikita Gusev to swoop in to take the pick and fire a wrist shot past Georgiev with 7:49 remaining to establish some breathing room once more.
Subban’s length-of-the-ice empty-net goal with 48 seconds remaining calmed all nerves of those wearing red in the Prudential Center crowd that was split almost evenly with Rangers and Devils fans.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Thursday evening’s game, with all photos taken by ALOST senior photographer Robert Cole. 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 eight pictures in total.