When the New Jersey Devils opened the season with consecutive 5-2 losses, no one could have predicted they wouldn’t have another two-game losing streak by this point of the season.
A team record-tying 13-game winning streak pushed the Devils into the NHL’s elite class, but occasionally they experience poor showings such as Friday’s 6-4 loss to the visiting New York Islanders.
The Devils hope to avoid their first back-to-back losses since the season’s first week on Monday night when they visit the New York Rangers, who are seeking their fourth straight win.
New Jersey is 21-3-1 over its past 25 since starting with consecutive losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings. The winning streak ended with a 2-1 loss to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 23 when the Devils had three goals disallowed.
Since then, they are 5-1-1 in their past seven contests and own a 10-point lead over the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division.
The Devils were coming off a 5-1 win over Washington when they beat the Rangers in New York two weeks ago. On Friday, they trailed 4-1 early in the second period and 6-2 early in the third before Tomas Tatar and Jack Hughes scored to make the final margin more respectable.
Hughes extended his points streak to a career-high seven games and also was on the ice for the final 6:02, the longest recorded shift ever in the NHL.
“I don’t think it was the game we were hoping for or expected of ourselves,” New Jersey defenseman Ryan Graves said. “Just not the start we’re looking for, and overall, we managed the puck poorly and gave up a lot of chances. We didn’t create energy the way we should.”
New Jersey’s mistakes resulted in the team allowing four power plays and 32 shots. It was only the seventh time the Devils were outshot so far this season
On Nov. 28, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad scored in the opening 3:01 but the Rangers blew the early lead and took a 5-3 loss to the Devils. That defeat was part of a four-game home losing streak that culminated in an ugly 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 3.
Since the Chicago loss, the Rangers are on their second three-game winning streak of the season after also winning three straight Oct. 29-Nov. 1.
After rallying in the third period for a 6-4 home win over St. Louis last Monday and scoring four times in the third for Wednesday’s 5-1 win at Vegas, the Rangers eked out a 2-1 win over the host Colorado Avalanche on Friday.
The Rangers survived getting outshot 16-6 in the third period and overtime before Zibanejad and Panarin scored in the shootout. They were able to reach the shootout thanks to Igor Shesterkin, who made 41 saves, has stopped 56 of 58 shots in his past two games and is 3-0-1 since blaming himself for allowing four goals to the Devils in their previous meeting.
“We found a way to win tonight with unbelievable goaltending,” New York coach Gerard Gallant said of the game against the Avalanche. “Obviously, that was the biggest key for us tonight. We didn’t play our best, but the goaltender was incredible.”
Shesterkin likely will play behind some revamped New York lines as Zibanejad has skated with youngsters Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko on the top line since the middle of last Monday’s win.
–Field Level Media