The New York Rangers are off to a brutal start to their 2017-18 NHL season, a start made all the more frustrating by the early season success of their rivals across the Hudson River.
They’ll look to turn the tide tonight, as they square off with the New Jersey Devils for the first time this season (7:00, MSG).
Rangers (1-4-0) are playing their second back-to-back of the season, having lost 3-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets last night in Ohio. Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers an early lead when he exited the penalty box and put one into the net in the first period, but the Rangers couldn’t keep it intact. The Jackets tied the game with a Seth Jones goal in the final minute of the second period, then went on to dominate the third, outshooting the Rangers 18-9 in the last 20 minutes. Despite the best efforts of Henrik Lundqvist, who saw a 40-save effort go for naught, the Rangers allowed Artemi Panarin to score his first goal as a Jacket before Lukas Sedlak put in a empty-netter with six seconds to go.
Meanwhile, the Devils (3-1-0) were one of two undefeated teams in the NHL, along with Vegas, but that streak ended with a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Washington Capitals at Prudential Center last night. Taylor Hall had a power play goal and Kyle Palmieri cut the lead to 3-2 in the first minute of the third period, but two Washington power play goals put the game away. TJ Oshie had two goals for the Caps, while Alex Ovechkin scored his ninth goal of the year.
This will be the first of four meetings between the Tri-State area rivals this season and the first of two at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers were 3-0-1 against their longtime rivals, winning both matchups at Madison Square Garden. Over a week’s span in December, the Rangers won 5-0 and 3-2 against New Jersey, the latter victory coming in shootout fashion. Hayes had the shootout session’s deciding goal, while Lundqvist had 29 saves.
The two teams have confirmed tonight’s game will be a battle of backups. Ondrej Pavelec will make his first start as Rangers, having played the latter two period of the Rangers’ 8-5 loss in Toronto last Saturday. Keith Kindkaid will see his first action of the season.
The Rangers earned their only win thus far this season in the second half of a back-to-back, doing do last Sunday when they shut out Montreal 2-0 at MSG.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490