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Devils try to avoid third straight shutout vs. Rangers

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What can Igor Shesterkin do for an encore after becoming the first New York Rangers goalie to record his first NHL shutouts in back-to-back games?

How about trying to make it three in a row against the same opponent?

Shesterkin and the Rangers will look to gain ground in the East Division playoff race Saturday afternoon when New York hosts the New Jersey Devils in the third of four consecutive games between the longtime rivals. They’ll play again Sunday afternoon in Newark, N.J.

Shesterkin made his bit of history Thursday by stopping all 16 shots he faced to help the Rangers cruise to a 4-0 win. The 25-year-old made 27 saves Tuesday when New York beat the Devils 3-0 at New Jersey.

He is the first Rangers rookie to post consecutive shutouts since the franchise’s first season in 1926-27, when Lorne Chabot had a pair of back-to-back blankings.

“Obviously, two shutouts are great, but I will reinforce the fact that it wouldn’t have happened without the guys,” Shesterkin said. “They’re going down, blocking every shot, eating pucks. It never happens without them.”

The Rangers’ playoff push might not be happening without their success against the Devils. After dropping games to New Jersey in January and February, New York has won the last four contests between the teams by a combined score of 19-4.

With the win Thursday, the Rangers improved to 9-3-2 since March 20 and remained four points behind the Boston Bruins in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. Boston has two games in hand.

Even after the back-to-back shutouts of the Devils, the Rangers detected room for improvement Thursday, when they scored all four goals in the first 33 minutes before producing just four shots in the third period.

“We were fortunate with our opportunities early,” Rangers head coach David Quinn said. “I thought the second period we got away with some stuff. Our goalie had to make some big saves.

“We know we’ve got to be better.”

The Devils know that as well. New Jersey is 1-6-2 in its last nine games. The back-to-back shutout losses to the Rangers are the first time the Devils have been blanked in consecutive games since March 2017, when the Columbus Blue Jackets beat them 3-0 and 2-0.

“We have to find the extra step, stride, battle, whatever it takes,” Devils center Nico Hischier said. “Just saying it is not enough. We have to dig in and do it out there.”

–Field Level Media

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