It will be very difficult for the New York Rangers to make the playoffs, and the odds are against them, but as a fan, you must admit that they put on some show tonight at the Prudential Center in their 4-3 comeback win over the New Jersey Devils. There are certain games in a season that a fan always remembers and will talk about for years to come. For some reason, tonight's eventful contest feels like one of those games with the Blueshirts being able to comeback against a rival team and eventually win in the shootout. Each team had their ups and each team had their downs, but overall, it was an emotional effort by both clubs on this night, which provided for quite a spectacle.
The first period saw some atrocious hockey played by the Blueshirts. Their defense was all unorganized, they could not generate much offensively, and the passion just did not seem to be there. That could have been because they were involved in a wild contest at MSG just the night before against the Islanders, but even still, there is no excuse for the way they came out and played to start this game. Luckily, Ilya Kovalchuk's rebound goal was the only one to be allowed in the first.
Brandon Dubinsky responded to that goal on the powerplay in the second period when he pulled up at the circles and let a wrister fly. That wristshot deflected off of two Devil defensemen and eventually passed Martin Brodeur. For the second straight game, the powerplay cashed in for the Rangers and proved to have a major impact on the result of the tilt. I think the key to their recent success with the man advantage is that they are finally getting traffic in front of the goaltender and are actually getting low shots through. It is not pretty, but it is getting the job done and that is what's most important right now.
Four goals were exchanged between the two teams in the third period. Elias' blast to make it 2-1 was answered by Artem Anisimov's goal scorer's goal six minutes later. With just about 7:30 remaining in regulation, New Jersey Captain Jamie Langenbrunner capitalized on the Rangers falling asleep at their bench with a slapshot tally. That seemed to be the dagger in the Blueshirts' heart, but following a John Tortorella timeout with just over 20 seconds left, Erik Christensen fed Chris Drury camped out in front of Brodeur. Drury slammed the pass through the legs of Brodeur and sent the Rangers bench, the arena, and fans watching at home to their feet in celebration. That tying goal came with exactly 17 seconds left in regulation.
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It was all Henrik Lundqvist in overtime, as he was forced to stop six Devil shots in the extra period. With overtime ending scoreless, they would then head to the shootout where Erik Christensen scored the only goal to propel the Rangers to the full two-point comeback victory. Actually, that goal was originally waved off being that it bounced in and out of the net fast, but the review proved it to count, end eventually become the winner.
Rangers - Devils games always seem to be a battle of the goaltenders. Once again, that was the story tonight in Newark. Lundqvist made a total of 35 saves--Brodeur 28--and both netminders had at least a handful that will make the highlight reel. If not for Lundqvist, the Rangers do not win this game. Head coach John Tortorella deserves credit for making the decision to play Lundqvist in both back-to-back games; he was unreal tonight.
Led by Artem Anisimov, the Rangers fourth line was arguably the best for New York. That is not only because of Anisimov, either, because Jody Shelley and Brandon Prust also played very well in this game. But focusing on Anisimov, he has been on a role as of late, scoring his second goal in two games, which was also his 12th of the season. Once Artem puts on some weight and builds some strength, he will be a dominant player in the National Hockey League-no question.
I also think Sean Avery deserves credit tonight. He may not have made the scoresheet, but he sure was effective in every other aspect. Between mixing it up with Clarkson and providing a consistent effort on the forecheck, Aves kept his streak of incredible play going with yet another terrific outing tonight.
So the Bruins and Flyers both lost, meaning the Rangers are now only three points out of the playoffs. Unfortunately, three points have not been easy to come by, and there is a team standing in their way in the Atlanta Thrashers. The Rangers next game will be on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto.