Tonight’s preseason matchup between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils had the look and feel of a regular season game. There was an intensity and a nasty edge throughout, and the scattered amount of fans who made their way to Madison Square Garden got their money’s worth.
There was a nice mix of veterans and kids in what was the Rangers preseason opener. This was the Devils second game, after losing in a shootout to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. The Devils seemed to be the more rusty team early on, as they made several defensive mistakes that the Rangers capitalized on for goals.
The Rangers would strike first in a game that had goals, hits, fights, and some nice saves by the starting goaltenders Martin Biron and Martin Brodeur. Marian Gaborik would tip in an Alex Frolov pass behind Brodeur to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Derek Stepan would also get an assist, as he cut to the middle before handing it off to Frolov.
The Devils would strike later in the period, where Travis Zajac would tie it off assists from Kovalchuk and Parise. Both team’s top lines saw all players record points in the first period. The Rangers were getting a look at one of their top prospects, Stepan, while the Devils were seeing if a power line of that caliber would work in a real game. Neither coach could be disappointed through the first twenty minutes.
Five minutes into the second, the Rangers would regain the lead when Frolov scored after stealing the puck and cashing in on a mini breakaway. But the Devils would tie it yet again, when Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a breakaway of his own, after a great long-ice pass from Parise as Dan Girardi just stood by and watched.
Two minutes later, Brian Boyle would use his size and strength to power to the net and slide the puck through Brodeur’s legs and give the Rangers a 3-2 lead. Dale Weise would get an assist on the play.
The third period would begin with a change of goaltenders, as Chad Johnson replaced Biron and Jeff Frazee came in for Brodeur. Neither goalie would face much work, until the Devils would rally to tie for the third time, on a goal by Parise, one that Johnson would have wanted to have back.
The game would then head to overtime tied at three. The Rangers would get a powerplay after Rod Pelley checked Michael Sauer into the boards from behind. Marian Gaborik would then win it for the Blueshirts with a powerplay goal, his second of the game. The Rangers would finish 2-7 on the powerplay.
Both teams stars were the ones who cashed in tonight, and it was good to see Gaborik flying early on. The Devils top line of Kovalchuk-Zajac-Parise was very scary, and should they play like this during the season, the Devils will prove to be a formidable opponent.
Tonight also saw two fights, the first between Adam Mair and Brian Boyle, which was more of a hugging match than an actual bout, but the second, between Prust and Brad Mills was very entertaining. Derek Boogaard was also penalized with a ten-minute misconduct for doing absolutely nothing, at least nothing we could see on camera, after standing next to Pierre Leblond before a faceoff.
The Rangers started the preseason on the right foot, with an intense victory over the New Jersey Devils. These two teams will meet again on Saturday night, at the Prudential Center in Newark.