Jack Hughes frustrated by effort with Devils down 2-0 to Rangers

ByGreg Wyshynski ESPN logo
Friday, April 21, 2023

Two games in, the New York Rangers have absolutely dominated the Battle of the Hudson.

The Rangers took a 2-0 series lead against the New Jersey Devils with a 5-1 win in Game 2 on Thursday night, having now outscored their rivals 10-2 in their Eastern Conference first-round matchup.

"Of course there's frustration. We just got whacked for the second straight game, you know?" Devils star Jack Hughes said. "We're not playing to our standard, and it's biting us in the ass right now."

The Rangers once again feasted on the power play, scoring twice with the man advantage for the second straight game. Rangers forward Chris Kreider has scored all four power-play goals for New York.

The Devils are 1-for-8 on the power play through the first two games, scoring once on the man advantage in Game 2.

"Special teams, I think that's pretty much the story of this game," said forward Timo Meier, the Devils' high-profile trade deadline pickup who has yet to record a point in the series. "We're not doing a good job on the power play, and they're doing a good job on the power play scoring."

The Devils also took some frustrating penalties, including in the attacking zone.

"I don't think we're playing very well. We're taking terrible penalties. Everyone's gotta play better," Hughes said.

Things started off well for the Devils. Coach Lindy Ruff noted that the Rangers were able to take control of Game 1 after taking an early lead and put a premium on the Devils scoring first. Forward Erik Haula did just that at 11:44 in the first period on the power play.

The Rangers' Vladimir Tarasenko evened the game at 5:53 of the second period with his second of the playoffs, beating goalie Vitek Vanecek (25 saves) from a distance.

After forward Miles Wood took an offensive zone penalty by slashing Artemi Panarin, it was Kreider scoring his third of the playoffs on the power play to give the Rangers the lead at 9:57. He struck again on the power play just over six minutes later, deflecting a pretty pass from Kane.

In the third period, Kane had a vintage moment: stealing the puck from forward Jesper Bratt and coming in on a 2-on-0 partial breakaway with Kreider. Kane cut in front of Vanecek and lifted the puck into the top of the net for his first of the playoffs.

Forward Kaapo Kakko added a goal later in the period to make it 5-1.

When scoring four or more goals, New York is a combined 35-0-0 (33-0-0 in regular season, 2-0 in playoffs) this season.

The rest of the third period saw the game devolve into a series of penalties, including one fight. In total for the game, the Devils amassed 71 penalty minutes while the Rangers had 65.

While the Rangers' star players have made their presence felt in the series, the Devils haven't gotten points from players like Meier, Nico Hischier,Jesper Bratt, Dawson Mercer and Dougie Hamilton. They also haven't scored an even-strength goal, after finishing fourth in the NHL in that category during the regular season.

"It's frustrating, right? But there's too many skill guys in this room for that to hold up for that long. We've just gotta stick with the process," defenseman John Marino said.

The action moves across the Hudson to Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, with the Rangers firmly in control of the series.

Ruff said he hoped the team that set a franchise record for points in a season (112) shows up in Manhattan.

"This team has always been up for an incredible challenge. They're going to battle to the bitter end. I've got a lot of faith in this team. I've got a lot of faith in the group that gave me everything they had the whole year," Ruff said. "They're facing some veteran players that have been through wars. There was some frustration tonight, which comes along with not being in a battle like this [before], but this group has got a lot of heart."