After the New York Rangers squandered a two-goal lead and continued their middling start with a 5-3 home loss to the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 28, goalie Igor Shesterkin took the blame and said he was ashamed of his performance.
Since then, the performances of both teams have reversed heading into their third meeting of the season Saturday afternoon in Newark, N.J.
The loss to the Devils occurred two days after the Rangers squandered a three-goal lead in a 4-3 loss to the visiting Edmonton Oilers, part of a stretch of 10 losses in 15 games (5-7-3). The slump culminated in an embarrassing 5-2 home loss to the league-worst Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 3 and at that point, the Rangers were 14 points behind the Devils in the Metropolitan Division.
On Dec. 12, the Rangers erased an early two-goal deficit for a 4-3 win over visiting New Jersey when Filip Chytil scored 2:15 into overtime against Vitek Vanecek. The comeback is part of a Rangers turnaround that has seen them go 11-2-1 in their past 14 contests, a stretch that includes a seven-game winning streak.
Shesterkin got the night off Thursday when the Rangers scored three times in a span of 5:44 in the second period in a 4-1 win at Montreal. Chytil scored twice after being demoted to the fourth line while Chris Kreider and Braden Schneider also tallied.
“I think when we can show up and play our game and play Ranger hockey is when we’re going to be our best, no matter who’s across the way,” New York defenseman K’Andre Miller said.
Shesterkin will return to action Saturday and, since feeling ashamed of his showing against the Devils, he is 8-2-2 with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in his past 12 games. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner was named to the All-Star team Thursday.
The Devils ascended to the top of the division with a 13-game winning streak Oct. 25-Nov. 21. When they rallied to beat the Rangers in the first meeting, it was the final game of a stretch of 16 wins in 17 games (16-1-0).
Since then, New Jersey is 5-8-3 in its past 16 games. The loss in the second meeting in New York was part of a six-game losing streak. Before that skid, the Devils held a nine-point lead atop the division and now they head into Saturday just one point ahead of the Rangers and five behind the Carolina Hurricanes.
Among the causes of New Jersey’s slide is a sudden inability to win on home ice. During their 17-game hot streak, the Devils were 7-1-0 at home. Since their 3-0 win over Chicago on Dec. 6, they are 0-7-1 in their past eight home contests.
New Jersey’s home woes continued with a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday when they allowed three straight goals after Jack Hughes scored twice in a five-minute span in the second period.
“We just want to continue to be successful on the road and we’ve got to get better at home,” Devils defenseman Damon Severson said. “It’s as simple as that.”
–Field Level Media