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The new-look Rangers might want to try a new look.
Despite dressing a lineup that featured all NHLers for the first time in quite a bit, with trade-deadline acquisitions Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte and Justin Braun immediately slotting in, the Rangers were all over the place in an ugly 7-4 loss to the dead-in-the-water Devils on Tuesday night at Prudential Center.
The Devils, who are in the basement of the Eastern Conference, snapped a three-game losing skid with the win.
Rangers star goalie Igor Shesterkin was pulled for the second time in his last five starts after giving up five goals on 24 shots. While there were plenty of defensive breakdowns in front of him that led to some of those goals, Shesterkin hasn’t been his super-human self as of late.
After the Rangers built a 2-0 lead in the first period behind goals from Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox, it was gone 8 ½ minutes into the middle frame — and a distant memory by the end of it. The Devils managed to score five straight goals in the second, with the first four coming in the span of just over six minutes. Six different players scored goals for the Devils.
Ryan Strome cut the deficit to two at 3:46 of the third, but the Devils’ Jack Hughes added two more — including one on the power play — to keep his team comfortably in the lead. Chris Kreider added one for the Rangers at 14:56, but the game was too far out of reach.
On paper, the Rangers brought in significant upgrades before Monday’s trade deadline to plug some holes in the lineup. Frank Vatrano, acquired from the Panthers last week, has lined up on the second unit next to Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome since making his Rangers debut against the Islanders.
Utility forward Andrew Copp slotted into the left-wing spot of the third line with Filip Chytil and Dryden Hunt, while Tyler Motte fortified the fourth line with Barclay Goodrow at center and Ryan Reaves on the right. Defenseman Justin Braun replaced rookie Braden Schneider on the third pair next to Patrik Nemeth.
Head coach Gerard Gallant got a head start on experimenting with new line combinations in the third period. In elevating Copp to the first line with Kreider and Zibanejad, Lafreniere was relegated to just four shifts in the final 20 minutes. Goodrow went on the wing of the Panarin-Strome duo and Motte joined Chytil on the third line with Vatrano.
Pushing the forecheck and utilizing their speed, the Rangers got on the board first behind a strong shift from the initial top line seven minutes into the game. Lafreniere fed Zibanejad, who skated across the crease before scoring his 26th goal of the season.
Fox later wired one from the right faceoff circle for the 2-0 lead at 13:55 of the first. The play wouldn’t have been possible without Copp’s faceoff win, which earned him an assist and his first point as a Ranger.