NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Ondrej Palat got the New Jersey Devils on the scoreboard early and they had shut down the New York Rangers the rest of the way to move one win away from advancing to the second round.
It’s been quite a remarkable turnaround after the Devils had two lopsided losses in the first two games.
Erik Haula had two goals and an assist, Akira Schmid stopped 23 shots, and the Devils beat the Rangers 4-0 Thursday night to take a 3-2 series lead.
Dawson Mercer had a goal and an assist to help New Jersey get its third straight win — and the first victory in the series by a home team.
“Tonight we did a lot of good things and that’s exactly how we got to play,” Devils captain Nico Hischier said. We knew if we use our speed, that’s our strength. … That’s what makes us a dangerous team — if we play with our speed.”
Igor Shesterkin finished with 39 saves for the Rangers, who have been outscored 9-2 over the last three games after a pair of 5-1 wins to open the series.
“We just weren’t good enough,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Jersey played their best game of the series. You’ve got to give them credit.”
Game 6 is Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Schmid had eight saves in the first period, 13 in the second and two in the third for his first career postseason shutout in his third straight start. The 22-year-old rookie has stopped 80 of 82 shots he’s faced after Vitek Vanecek gave up nine goals on 52 shots in the first two games.
Leading by three after two periods, the Devils controlled play in the third with a dominant 18-2 advantage on shots on goal over the final 20 minutes.
“The boys have been playing phenomenal in front of me,” Schmid said. “Not a lot of work for me. I can’t give the boys enough credit.”
The Rangers nearly got on the scoreboard but Vincent Trocheck’s poke attempt went off the left post and slid across the goal line. Schmid and Haula both punched the puck to the side and away from the goal with 6:25 left.
“You got to get lucky too to win games sometimes,” Schmid said. “Today we got lucky two or three times, and I got lucky having Haulsy there as well. Like I said, the boys have been helping me out a lot.”
Haula had a long empty-netter with 5:12 to go to cap the scoring with his third goal of the series.
The Devils went 1 for 5 on the power play while the Rangers were 0 for 2. New York has not scored on their last 10 chances over the last three games after going 4 for 10 in the first two.
Palat got the Devils on the scoreboard just 39 seconds into the game. Following a faceoff in the right circle, the puck rebounded off Shesterkin and came out to the left circle, where Palat fired a shot that deflected off the stick of Rangers defenseman Adam Fox and over Shesterkin’s glove. It was his second goal of the series and his 50th career postseason goal.
“When we got that first one, the momentum just kept going,” Mercer said. “We ran with and all game we had chances after chance. … From the goalie, defense to the forwards, we just really ran with it after that big goal off the start.”
Just as a penalty on the Rangers’ Patrick Kane was about to expire early in the second, Haula tipped a shot by Mercer in front through Shesterkin’s pads at 3:27 to push the Devils’ lead to 2-0.
“I heard him yelling there,” Mercer said. “I knew I was in the middle, usually guys come at you pretty quick there. I turned quick as I could to get it on the net, and Haulsy with a good tip.”
Mercer then added to New Jersey’s lead on a short-handed 2-on-1 rush as he got a cross-ice pass from Haula and fired a shot over Shesterkin’s right shoulder for the 21-year-old’s first career postseason goal with 6:28 left in the middle period.
Shesterkin made a sprawling save on a backhand try from Timo Meier with 3:19 left in the second to keep the Rangers’ deficit at 3-0.
Panarin had a shot on a 3-on-1 break but Schmid used his glove to knock down the shot from the left circle 9:10 into the first period. Schmid also stopped Vladimir Tarasenko’s shot from the left circle with 7:15 left in the period, and had a glove save on Ryan Lindgren’s attempt in front with just under two minutes remaining.
New Jersey Devils’ Erik Haula (56) celebrates after his goal against the New York Rangers during the second period of Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)