The elimination-game magic the New York Rangers enjoyed early last postseason might be back this year
If so, that only puts more pressure on the rival New Jersey Devils to win their first playoff series in 11 seasons
The Rangers and Devils will meet in a Game 7 for the third time -- this time in their Eastern Conference first-round series on Monday night in Newark, N.J
After totaling two goals in losing Games 3, 4 and 5 of the series, New York faced a win-or-go-home scenario at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. And, like in 2022, when they went 5-0 in elimination games against Pittsburgh and Carolina in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Rangers prevailed
Chris Kreider snapped New York's 0-for-14 power-play drought with a goal before adding two assists, while Mika Zibanejad and Vladimir Tarasenko recorded one of each and Igor Shesterkin made 34 saves in the 5-2 Game 6 victory.
"Backs against the wall, you're going to leave it out there," Rangers defenseman Adam Fox told NHL.com. "No one wants the season to end
"We were able to get into this Game 7, and we're excited about it."
New Jersey opened the scoring Saturday through Curtis Lazar 11:49 into the game but didn't tally again until Dawson Mercer's goal late in the third. The Devils, who last won a playoff series in 2012, get the comfort of home for Game 7 but appear to no longer have momentum
"Win or go home. That's it," said Devils captain Nico Hischier, who posted a career-high 31 goals during the regular season, but none in this series. "Game 7 is pretty much self-explaining.
New Jersey lost Game 7s to the Rangers during the 1992 division semifinals and the 1994 Eastern Conference final. However, both were played at MSG, so at least the Devils should feel confident on home ice, even though New York won Games 1 and 2 there
"What a game to be in," New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said. "Where would you rather be? Playing at home in front of your fans, Game 7.
"It's something that, if you're a little kid growing up, you're going to sit there and go, ‘Man, I would love to play in that game.' "
Ruff, though, has a muddled goaltender situation on his hands.
New Jersey's Akira Schmid stopped 80 of 82 shots and recorded one shutout in his first three playoff appearances while starting Games 3 through 5. However, he was pulled after yielding five goals on 29 shots Saturday for Vitek Vanecek, who allowed nine goals on 52 shots in the first two games of the series. Vanecek appears to be an option for Monday.
Meanwhile, Shesterkin has a 1.79 goals-against average and .939 save percentage during the series.
Teammate Kreider has six goals with three assists this postseason. According to the NHL, Kreider has scored 16 goals in elimination games -- tying former Ranger Mark Messier for the most in NHL history. New York is 20-8 when Kreider plays in an elimination game.
Erik Haula leads the Devils with five points in this series. All but one has come at home
The winner will advance to face the Carolina Hurricanes.
--Field Level Media