The Rangers were outplayed by the New Jersey Devils on this night, but capitalized on key opportunities to lead them past their division rivals, 3-0. It was exactly what the team wanted after taking a beating the night before in Philadelphia, especially Henrik Lundqvist, who wanted to come out and redeem himself after allowing four to the Flyers. At the end of the day, they got the job done and came away with two points - can’t ask for anything more than that.
In my opinion, the Blueshirts were fortunate to come out of the first period with a 1-0 advantage. They were outshot by the Devils 11-4 and clearly were not the better hockey club. However, 7:35 into the tilt, Brandon Dubinksy whacked an Artem Anisimov pass through goaltender Johan Hedberg for his ninth of the season. That would stand as the only goal in the period with King Henrik looking dominant in net. It is pretty easy to pick up when Hank is on, and tonight was one of those times.
The Rangers cleaned their game up in the second period and were generating more offense against Hedberg. The "Moose" played awfully well also, because the Rangers had trouble getting straight up shots past him. It took a Brian Boyle deflection with 36 seconds remaining in the second to gain a 2-0 lead, which turned out to be a back-breaker for New Jersey. Dan Girardi had the original shot from the point for his fifth assist of the season.
The Rangers wasted no time putting an end to the contest in the third as Dubinsky buried his second of the game off a lucky bounce that he tucked into the back of the net just 3:41 in. From that point on, Lundqvist took over and stole the show. His stop on Travis Zajac’s one-timer was probably the best of the game, but he also had some key saves against Volchenkov and Tallinder as well. Without him, I am not so sure that this one would have ended in regulation, because the Devils really started applying the pressure late in the third.
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Toss-up between Dubinksy and Lundqvist for player of the game, but I am going to go with Hank here. It is never easy to play back-to-back road games in two straight nights, let alone when facing 30+ shots in both. He was perfect with 33 saves this evening and re-gained his confidence after that disaster in Philadelphia. It just goes to show how mentally talented Lundqvist is, in addition to physically talented. The guy can do it all.
And now obviously Dubi was the next best performer in white. His two goals were his ninth and tenth on the season; fourth and fifth this week. This is the best I have ever seen the youngster play, and it is certainly the most consistent he has ever been in his entire NHL career. If he can continue to do this when Gaborik and company return to the lineup in a few weeks or so, the Rangers will have a spectacular secondary scorer on their hands. But right now, "secondary scorer" may be undervaluing him, because with Gaborik out he has been the team’s primary scorer along with Ryan Callahan (did not play tonight).
Marc Staal and Dan Girardi looked better out there compared to the garbage we saw just over 24 hours ago. They were clearing the crease and preventing any second opportunities for the Devils around the net. I thought they were especially clutch in the third when Jersey was attempting to form some kind of comeback.
Now I know this is supposed to be postgame analysis from a Rangers’ perspective, but I just wanted to give Stephen Gionta (yes, the brother of Brian) a plug. In his NHL debut, I thought he was one of the biggest threats to the Blueshirts all game long. The kid had four shots on goal in just over eleven minutes of ice time, and each shift he was out there he made sure he was doing something to be noticed. I was impressed by his play, but like his brother, he is on the shorter side.
Anyway, the Rangers did not play a perfect game at the Prudential Center, but it was a good enough road effort in the second of back-to-back games in two straight nights for the victory. It seemed like they came together as a team and did everything as a unit. Their forecheck, their defense, it was all unified. Apparently head coach John Tortorella was very pleased with this, because he had a big grin on his face at the end of the game, which is a rare occurrence.
Their next game will be Sunday night at Madison Square Garden versus the St. Louis Blues.