The New Jersey Devils, who made the playoffs for the first time since 2018, will continue on their journey to the Stanley Cup as they defeated their Hudson River rival, the New York Rangers, 4-0, in Game 7 of their first round series.
With their first playoff series win in 11 years, the Devils will now head down to Carolina to face the Hurricanes, who took care of the New York Islanders in six games in their first round matchup.
It felt like all Devils throughout this game, as they were constantly pressuring the Rangers on both ends of the ice. New York’s netminder Igor Shesterkin, though, kept his team in the game after a scoreless first period, but the Devils finally broke through in the second.
The first goal of the game came from an unexpected player, as Michael McLeod dangled his way around Igor Shesterkin, who was in a full split after Ondrej Palat deked his way around two Rangers and sent a beautiful saucer pass to his teammate’s stick.
It was a short-handed goal for the Devils, though a 4-on-4 tilt just ticked off the clock. This is McLeod’s first Stanley Cup Playoffs goal, as this is his first playoff series as well.
But the Devils’ momentum, which seemed to stay on their side of the bench throughout the second period, reached an even higher level when John Marino sped toward net with just over five minutes to play.
Marino dangled around a couple Rangers before trying a shot on net that Shesterkin sticked aside. But the puck ended up right on Marino’s blade again and he wasted no time throwing it back toward the net, where Tomas Tatar was waiting patiently. He wristed one over Shesterkin to make it a 2-0 game, and the Prudential Center went ballistic.
Then, after the Rangers showed a bit more fight in the third period, the Devils never faltered and came up with defensive stops that eventually led to the dagger goal.
Jack Hughes got the puck and sped down ice with two teammates following for a 3-on-1. Hughes chose to saucer pass over to Erik Haula, who one-timed a slap shot past Shesterkin to make it 3-0 with less than five minutes to play.
Jesper Bratt tallied his first goal of the series after that with an empty net goal.
The team that has a two-goal-or-more lead in a Game 7 are now 128-13 in NHL history.
The Rangers were shut out in Game 5 at The Rock by 22-year-old Akira Schmid, and he did the same thing when it mattered most for New Jersey here in Game 7.
Before the game began, it was interesting to see what head coach Lindy Ruff was going to do after Schmid was pulled in Game 6 for Vitek Vanecek after allowing five goals. Vanecek struggled in the first two games of this series, which led to Schmid’s arrival in net.
It turned out to be the right decision.
Schmid made 31 saves, some of which the Rangers made hard on him. However, his glove hand was extra sharp as it was used to snatch would-be goals to the pleasure of the Devils fans in the stands and at home watching.
Game 1 puck drop will come on Wednesday night.