After Akira Schmid impresses, Devils aim to tie series with Rangers

The New Jersey Devils made it to the conference finals the first two times they turned to a rookie goalie during the playoffs.

So it’s one win down and at least seven to go for Akira Schmid.

The Devils will try to build off Schmid’s impressive playoff debut and tie their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Monday night, when they visit the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the clash between the longtime rivals.

The teams were off Sunday after the Devils climbed back into the series Saturday night, when the 22-year-old Schmid made 35 saves and Dougie Hamilton scored 11:36 into overtime to lift New Jersey to a 2-1 win.

The first playoff overtime goal of Hamilton’s 11-year career ended a night that began with Devils coach Lindy Ruff and the club’s upper management deciding to bench goaltender Vitek Vanecek. The 27-year-old, who went 33-11-4 to establish himself as the team’s No. 1 goalie during the regular season, struggled in the first two games of the series, a pair of 5-1 wins by the Rangers.

“It was a decision that we, as an organization, spent a lot of time talking about,” Ruff said.

Ruff added that general manager Tom Fitzgerald, goalie coach Dave Rogalski and Martin Brodeur — who won three Stanley Cups in 21 years as the Devils’ goalie and is currently a vice president with the team — were involved in the discussions.

The previous rookie goalie to start a playoff game for the Devils was Brodeur, who emerged as the No. 1 netminder during the 1994 postseason as New Jersey fell to the Rangers in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.

Six years earlier, Sean Burke played 17 of the Devils’ 20 playoff games during their run to the Prince of Wales Conference finals, where they fell to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

“It’s always tough coming into a situation like this, but you just treat it like any other game,” said Schmid, who was 9-5-2 this year but started just two of the Devils’ final 13 regular-season games. “That’s kind of how I am, that’s just how I’m built.”

The Rangers, who outshot the Devils 36-28, had plenty of chances Saturday night but struggled on the power play. New York was 0-for-5 on the man advantage and squandered three chances in the final 28 minutes of regulation, including one in the third period when Ryan Graves was whistled for high sticking at the six-minute mark.

The Rangers had two power-play goals apiece in the first two games, when they were 4-of-10 on the man advantage.

“They did a good job adjusting to our power play tonight and our execution wasn’t good tonight,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “And that was the biggest difference.”

The loss marked the second straight series in which the Rangers fell in Game 3 after racing out to a 2-0 lead. The Tampa Bay Lightning outscored New York 12-5 in winning the final four games of the Eastern Conference finals last June.

“It’s never easy winning four games,” Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba said. “They are obviously a good, skilled team. We had our looks. We’ll come back and play Game 4.”