Rangers Win Battle of the Hudson

RANGERS 4, DEVILS 3 (OT)

In a game billed yesterday as “Devils Desperation,” the Garden Staters were expected to play 100 percent hard as a means of keeping their dim playoff hopes alive.

They did just that — and then some — but some bad luck and Antti Raanta‘s goaltending thwarted their chance for a victory.

When the noble Jersey-ites take on a fleet, upper echelon club such as the Rangers, the I.Q. — as in Intensity Level — must increase even more. That it did to the delight of a capacity crowd at Prudential Center last night.

But when the overtime-ice cleared, the Blueshirts’ overall strength, balance and good fortune prevailed despite John Hynes‘ best-laid plans at The Rock.

Not that the Devils had anything to be ashamed of — losing, 4-3, in overtime — because this was a see-saw game that lasted that way right through the extra session culminating with Mika Zibanejad‘s breakaway goal.

With Columbus awaiting the Blueshirts tonight at The Garden, the two points garnered against the Devs give the New Yorkers a special boost in their quest for higher standings as they look to the playoffs ahead.

OVERVIEW: Alain Vigneault prepared his skaters for an all-out New Jersey effort and the Rangers responded in kind with another W. How much it will help this evening against John Tortorella’s swiftly-moving Blue Jackets will remain debatable until the jury issues its verdict some time later tonight.

WHAT WENT RIGHT:

1. GOALTENDING: In the end, Raanta made the big save in overtime on a Kyle Palmieri breakaway while Cory Schneider failed at the other end on Zibanejad’s winner. Raanta was especially on his game during several Devils offensives as well as in the third, making big stops to keep his club within one goal of tying the count; which they eventually did.

2. THE BIG CLUTCH PRESS: After taking a 3-2 lead in the third period, the Devils checked vigorously to get the win and seemed capable of doing so until the 15-minute mark of the final period. It was then that the Blueshirts put New Jersey on the defensive and finally tied the count on Adam Clendening‘s seeing-eye goal.

3. BOTTOM SIX ON TOP: New York’s scoring depth was evident throughout but never more than on the Rangers’ second goal. Jesper Fast delivered a nifty cross-ice pass to Oscar Lindberg who beat a diving-too-late goalie Schneider. It was the Big O’s second goal in three games.

BEST SAVE: With the game on the line in the extra session, Devils ace — he already had two goals — Palmieri broke in alone on Raanta. The Visitors’ goalie made not one but two stops as Palmieri corralled a rebound but was foiled again by The Fine Finn.

BEST GOAL: Right after Raanta’s double-dip overtime saves on Palmieri, Brady Skjei skimmed an outlet pass to Zibanejad. Although Mika had been suffering through a scoring drought he beat Schneider with a shot through the goalie’s legs for the game-winner.

TURNING POINT: See BEST SAVE.

WHAT THEY SAID:

1. ANTTI RAANTA: “If I can make a couple of saves in overtime, I can always give my guys a chance to score. (On Palmieri’s breakaway and his save.) The puck hit a little bit of my right skate and stayed out. Then it was great to see the puck go in at the other end. For us, it was a great battle to come back from 3-2 and then get the winner in overtime. It was an unreal feeling.”

Antti Raanta breaks down the Rangers-Devils tilt and the crazy 20 seconds in overtime when he stopped Kyle Palmieri's breakaway before Mika Zibanejad hit netted the game-winner.

2. JOHN HYNES: “My guys played a complete game and it was a tribute to them that they could come back from the two-goal deficit. On the tying goal late in the third, it was a good shot and Cory was screened. We played hard, got a point and now we have to prepare for the Canadiens on Monday.”

3. THE MAVEN: “The Devils swarmed over the Rangers in the first period, but had nothing to show for an emphatic effort. By contrast, the Blueshirts capitalized on two opportunities for a pair of goals. New Jersey’s skaters never quit. They came back with one late in the second and went ahead by one in the third. Raanta made significant saves to keep the game from slipping away after which the Rangers hard press paid off with the tying counter. In O.T. Palmieri had the winner on his stick and was repulsed by Raanta. Zibanejad — a key among the Rangers’ armada — then sealed the deal.”

4. MAVEN REPORTER MATTHEW BLITTNER: “The Rangers were a heart attack team on this night.”

COMING ATTRACTIONS: After routing the Islanders last night, the Blue Jackets — led by Jovial John Tortorella — invade The Garden tonight.

GAME TIME: 4:30 PM

TV: MSG NETWORK

BOTTOM LINE: The result of the game ultimately rode on an attack and a counterattack. Palmieri broke free for what could have been the winner and lost his one-on-one challenge to Raanta. Going the other way, Zibanejad did what Palmieri did not do, score the winner. How well the Blueshirts handle Torts’ suddenly terrific team tonight will be yet another Manhattan melodrama! For now, though, the Rangers were part of yet another terribly exciting and well-played match. Kudos to both New Jersey and New York.