Devils Beat Rangers at the Times Union Center
It was a pretty cool night in Albany Tuesday night when the New York Rangers faced off against the New Jersey Devils in preseason hockey action. In what was a hotly contested, surprisingly chippy affair the Devils emerged with the 2-1 overtime win.
The game opened with a "Let's Go Rangers" chant from the probably 70/30 pro-Rangers crowd. Perennial pest Sean Avery made himself heard from early drawing a penalty and nearly starting a fight on his first shift. That's what I'm talking about! You may not like Sean Avery, and judging from what I hear - you don't - but it's hard to argue with his game. He flies around the ice, hits hard, and screens the goalie like no one else in this league. Seriously, they made a rule specifically banning Sean Avery's "put my stick in Martin Brodeur's eyes" style of screening the goalie. Brilliant!
The Rangers were unable to capitalize on the power play, however, and as the game dragged on the Devils became decidedly the better team. The "home" team was controlling possession and getting the majority of the chances, particularly in the second half of the first. Petr Sykora, one of the many Devils NHLers that started this game - compared to the eight for the Rangers - would net the first goal past Henrik Lundqvist midway through the first. The man they call "The King" would be heard from, however, making some big saves to keep the Rangers in it as the first period ended. Borque and Thomas joined Lundqvist and Avery as Rangers that looked particularly good in the first period.
The second period began with the first "Potvin Sucks" of the night and would tick by relatively uneventfully, save for a real slobber-knocker of a fight that broke out along the Devil's bench. You don't always get to see this feisty a game in exhibition, but if it was a treat tonight, let's hope it extends into the regular season. As for actual play in the second, the Devils controlled again. The Rangers defense looked good but their offense was lacking, with the Devils getting nearly all of the chances in the middle period. Christain Thomas, Dale Erixon and Dale Weise all looked good for the Rangers, despite their underwhelming second period.
The third period would bring a different kind of hockey, however. The game suddenly became a much more fluid one. The action was up and back, with the Rangers just missing on a few scoring chances and the Devils being stoned by young Rangers goalie Cameron Talbot. Talbot played out of his mind last night and may have been the best player on the ice. He made four or five jaw dropping saves to keep the Rangers alive. These are saves that would loom so large when Dale Weise, who'd enjoyed a win in the night's second fight just minutes earlier, made a big hit in the offensive zone to cause a turnover, cycled to the front of the net and put home the tying goal. And the crowd went wild. Weise had given this pro-Ranger audience their first chance to really erupt all night. And erupt they did. However, Weise would go from hero to goat in only ten minutes when, after the game went into overtime, he turned the puck over in the defensive zone leading to the game winning Devils goal.
Overall, it was a pretty cool night in Albany, though not one that you can take much from. This was really the first true exhibition game for the teams. The Rangers only dressed about eight real NHL players. The Devils dressed about thirteen John Tortorella estimated. For most players this game was just about getting back into the swing of things. Of the game Henrik Lundqvist said, "It's fun to get back out there and you're just looking for a comfortable feeling. Being out for so long, it doesn't feel natural in the beginning, you're fighting it a little bit. But still, it's fun to get back out there...I'm really happy that we're going now. " Brandon Dubinsky added, "It's exciting for them [young players], and I think that they got more comfortable as it wore on, and toward the end of the game I think they got a taste of...the type of hockey we need to play."
Last night offered you the unique opportunity to see NHL players skate on Albany ice and watch the young talent that will one day be your team develop before your eyes. Can a lot be taken from the game looking forward to the season? No. It was the first exhibition game, and if you're a Rangers fan you didn't get to see Callahan, Gaborik or Richards, three players that will be huge for the team this year. But hey, take it for what it was, a fun night of some NHL hockey. Hockey is here. Thank God.