For the past few days, Rangers coach David Quinn has spent a lot of time trying to get this message across to his team: Do not take the lowly Devils lightly.
It looked like the message got through.
Jacob Trouba scored in the first minute, Ryan Lindgren scored his first goal of the season and the Rangers rolled over the Devils, 4-0, at Madison Square Garden. It was their second straight shutout and fourth straight win against their rivals.
But Artemi Panarin, who had two goals and an assist, didn’t seem all that impressed with his team’s performance against a stripped-down Devils team that, after its selloff at the trade deadline, is now the youngest team in the league.
"We were obviously on our game, but it was not ideal,’’ he said through interpreter Nick Bobrov, the Rangers’ director of European scouting. "We have some details to work on and improve for very serious games coming up.’’
Pressed on what details the Rangers need to work on, Panarin said the team had too many giveaways on the bluelines for his liking.
"Obviously, today’s game was fun to play,’’ he said. "But I’m probably in the front row of those giveaways as well. So I realize that, and trying some things in that type of a game. So we’re going to tighten that up, play a little better defensively, and approach the next few games very seriously.’’
Quinn seemed to like Panarin’s take.
"That’s good to hear that Artemi said that,’’ Quinn said. "Certainly, we were fortunate with our opportunities early — I think we might have three or four scoring chances early, and we capitalized on all three of them, which really changed the complexion of the game. I thought the second period, we got away with some stuff — our goalie had to make some big saves, and I didn’t love the way things were going.’’
Goalie Igor Shesterkin, who started for the 10th time in the last 12 games, earned his second straight shutout, though he barely broke a sweat in making 16 mostly routine saves. He liked the game better than Panarin did.
"Indeed, there was not much work in this one,’’ Shesterkin said through interpreter Bobrov. "The guys did a great job. They blocked a lot of shots [and] I was facing some easier shots.
"We’re playing the right way. We’re taking it step by step, and we’re trying to make playoffs.’’
Ryan Strome set up both of Panarin’s goals and Colin Blackwell had three assists as the Rangers (21-16-6) kept pace with the Boston Bruins, who beat the Isles, 4-1. The Rangers trail Boston, which holds the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division, by four points with 13 games remaining. Boston has 15 left.
Trouba got the Rangers started when he came off the bench on a change, entered the offensive zone, and hammered a pass from Blackwell past Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood 47 seconds into the game for his second goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
Lindgren made it 2-0 at 6:39, when he walked into a soft pass from Panarin and blasted a shot past Blackwood for his first goal in 98 games, dating to November, 2019. Panarin made it 3-0 when he one-timed a pass from Strome on a two-on-one break at 12:00 of the period.
Panarin’s second goal, and 15th of the season, made it 4-0 at 12:51 of the second period. The Rangers outshot the Devils, 33-16. The teams play each again Saturday afternoon at the Garden, then close out the season series Sunday afternoon in Newark.