It was a historic night for the Rangers, from the crease out to the backend.
With Igor Shesterkin in nets for the second straight game to start his NHL career, and with defenseman Tony DeAngelo picking up a hat trick and a five-point game, the Rangers beat the Devils 6-3 on Thursday night at the Garden.
The Rangers (21-18-4) were giving Shesterkin another look following his NHL debut, a 5-3 win over the visiting Avalanche on Tuesday night. The ballyhooed prospect got quite a lot more work in this one than the 29 saves he made against Colorado, stopping 46 of 49 shots with the Devils (15-21-7) often selling out defense for offensive chances.
That allowed the Blueshirts to take a 5-3 lead into the third period. At that point, DeAngelo had already wrapped up his hat trick and had added two assists. The 24-year-old from Sewell, N.J., outside of Philadelphia, was the first is the first Rangers defenseman who to record a hat trick since Reijo Ruotsalainen on March 17, 1982, and the first Rangers defenseman to put up five points in a game since Brian Leetch since April 18, 1995. There had only been two previous five-point nights by Rangers defensemen in franchise history, and both were by Leetch (the first was on Feb. 17, 1989).
But putting the game away was what mattered when the third started, and the Rangers were sitting back, with only one shot on net in the first 12 minutes. Shesterkin had to come up with the best save of his young career, doing a full split while denying Jesper Boqvist in front to maintain the two-goal edge with nine minutes remaining.
The Blueshirts were then able to breathe a little easier after Ryan Strome fed Jesper Fast, who finished a 2-on-1 rush for a 6-3 lead with 7:04 left in the regulation.
The game had started with Shesterkin stopping the first shot he saw — unlike his debut, when he gave a goal on first and third shots against in his career. But that was a distant memory as Artemi Panarin got his 24th of the season on a one-timer blast from the right circle at 5:42, taking a 1-0 lead. It was Panarin’s 60th point of the season, the first player in franchise history to put up at least that many points in his first 43 games with the team.
But the game was tied when Kevin Rooney scored a shorthanded goal at 8:06, soon to be wiped out by the first from DeAngelo, a half-shank from the slot that beat goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, hit the crossbar and went in at 9:47, making it 2-1.
Before the first period ended, DeAngelo made a slick play to send a 180-foot slapshot off the back wall, where Chris Kreider corralled it and beat Blackwood with a deft backhand for a power-play goal to take a 3-1 lead. Blake Coleman was able to get a redirection in front to beat Shesterkin at 18:10, cutting the Rangers’ lead to 3-2 going into the second.
The action hardly slowed up, as Coleman was credited with another goal on a strange play at 8:56 of the second — dislodging the net when he was pushed in by Jacob Trouba, the puck apparently seen going over the goal line upon review, tying it, 3-3.
But the Rangers came right back, with a shot from DeAngelo at the right point going in at 12:08 to make it 4-3. Then just after a seven-second 5-on-3 man-advantage for the Rangers turned into a regular power play, DeAngelo completed the hat trick with a wrist shot through traffic that beat Blackwood to make it 5-3. It ended Blackwood’s night, replaced by Louis Domingue.
The bit of bad news for the Rangers going into the third was that defenseman Ryan Lindgren would not return due to a lower-body injury. Lindgren, who had missed the final two periods of Tuesday’s game after he got into a fight with Nazem Kadri, had blocked a huge P.K. Subban shot early in the first period but had kept playing.