One win does not portend a Stanley Cup, just like a loss does not indicate a failure of a season.
That, essentially, was head coach Alain Vigneault’s assessment of the Rangers’ 2-1 loss to the Devils Monday night at the Rock in the preseason opener for both teams.
“[It was the] first exhibition game,” Vigneault said. “There were things I liked [and] there’s room for improvement. It’s a first step and it’s going to get better.”
When he met with reporters at the team’s Greenburgh, N.Y., training facility Monday morning, Alain Vigneault said the overriding objective was player evaluation. While the assessment process will continue for the rest of the month, what was plainly obvious was that Brad Richards played with more confidence than he did at any point in 2013 and Marc Staal was strong in his first game action since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Capitals.
“[I] felt really good,” Staal said. The defenseman suffered a gruesome eye injury last season when struck in the eye by a Kimmo Timonen shot last season. “I said before I felt good in June and July [but] there’s no animal like [game action].”
Mattias Tedenby scored the Devils’ first goal of the exhibition season 10:20 into the game when he banged home a Rostislav Olesz from the top of the crease.
Tedenby’s marker was the only goal Henrik Lundqvist allowed on 15 shots spanning 30:29 of ice time. Cam Talbot replaced Lundqvist with 9:14 remaining in the second period and made 11 saves on 12 shots, allowing Eric Gelinas’s slap shot from the point 31 seconds into the third.
Lundqvist’s counterpart, Cory Schneider, made his Devils debut last night and showed why president and general manager Lou Lamoriello parted with the ninth-overall pick at the draft for the former Canucks goaltender. Schneider stopped all 22 shots he faced in the first two periods, including three off Richards’s stick, before giving way to Keith Kinkaid in the third. Kinkaid made 11 saves on 12 shots, allowing just Dominic Moore’s backhander at 4:59.
“I liked our shooting mentality. [But we] need to do a better job of getting in front of the goaltender,” Vigneault said before assessing the play of the top line of Richards, Rick Nash and Chris Kreider.
“They did all right. [It] was their first game together with me. I saw some things I liked and some things we [need] to work on.”
Before the game, the Devils announced Damien Brunner would attend camp on a professional tryout basis. As a rookie last season, Brunner recorded 26 points (12 goals and 14 assists) in 44 regular season games with the Red Wings, and added nine points (five goals and four assists) in 14 playoff games.
Brunner watched last night’s game from a suite.
“We had inquired about him early in the year, like you inquire about all players who have the ability to do certain things,” Lamoriello told the Devils website. “We certainly have seen him in Detroit. We know a little bit about him from the Swiss league and we thought that he would be signing and we thought that through the summer, but we said if it didn’t work out, we would be very much interested in taking him to camp. When it looked like he hadn’t gotten a contract, we communicated and kept our word and he's here.
“He’s a natural scorer. He's scored throughout his whole career and he’s a very skillful player. We’ll have time over the next week and a half just to see where everything's at. We’ll certainly get him in exhibition games and we’ll proceed after that. There’s no promises, no guarantees, nothing. It’s a very upfront situation. Both of us know where each other is at.”
Both teams have five games left in the exhibition season. The Rangers will be in Philadelphia Tuesday night for a match against the Flyers, while the Devils’ next game is Thursday night at the Rock against the Islanders.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.