It wasn't very exciting, but the New York Rangers put up a solid effort in tonight's 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center. This gives them three straight victories and their 15th on the road, which makes them the best team away from home ice in the National Hockey League. Also, it puts them in an ideal place in the standings, as they are just four points out of first place in the Eastern Conference and nine points ahead of ninth place. The magical season lives on, folks.
After a somewhat sloppy first period in Dallas on Friday, the Rangers were perfect on defense in the opening stanza of this game. They held the Blues to just two shots and killed off the one penalty that they took. It was a great road period after playing 24 hours prior, and I think it set them up nicely for the remainder of the game.
The Blues got on the board first when Brad Winchester deflected the first goal of the game past Martin Biron at 2:13 of the second period. Seven minutes later, Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan connected beautifully to tie the game at 1. The two teams were tied for quite a while until Sean Avery scored what would turn out to the game-winner late in the period. Give credit to Brandon Dubinsky because he did all the work on this goal; he weaved his way through traffic, sprung off the boards and made a great feed to Marian Gaborik. Gaborik's one-timer went off the crossbar and then sat on the goal line for Avery to tuck in.
After striking twice in the second, the Blueshirts returned to their perfect defensive form and gave St. Louis very little chance of coming back to tie things up. The key thing here was that New York was able to kill off a Sean Avery double minor, in which they held the Blues to only one shot. That was clutch and was another one of those moments where they came together as a team to overcome an obstacle.
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Martin Biron was incredible in net tonight for the Rangers. He made a total of 24 saves and the only one he let by him was redirected in the slot. I wanted Henrik Lundqvist to play in this game, but looking at the schedule ahead, it made sense to play Biron. Thankfully he did his job extraordinarily well and gave Hank a night of rest that will pay off in the near future.
You have to give credit to the entire defensive squad tonight. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi absorbed a majority of the minutes and, as usual, were lights out. I thought both Steve Eminger and Michael Sauer played with an edge in this game, which you know head coach John Tortorella will appreciate. Ryan McDonagh looked much more comfortable in his second NHL game and Matt Gilroy was quiet, but that is normally a good thing for a defenseman. The Blueshirts were impenetrable on defense, despite going up against a threatening offensive squad.
I liked Sean Avery's game tonight. He finally snapped his goal-scoring drought, but he was effective in many other ways. Of course he had his nose in many of the post-whistle confrontations, and also was a physical presence on the forecheck. He also made a few noteworthy passes and was getting the puck on net as well. So maybe he has found a permanent home on the second line? I hope so.
Marian Gaborik again had several chances to score tonight, but was repeatedly denied. I mean, watching his one-timer on Avery's goal not go in, I just saw that as a microcosm of the season he is having.
Brandon Dubinsky, I felt, was the best player on the ice for the Rangers. He was buzzing tonight and had assists on both Ranger goals. He is averaging just about 20 minutes of ice time per game, so that just goes to show the trust Tortorella has in Dubi.
As for injury updates, Alexander Frolov appeared to have injured his right leg in the third period and needed help getting off the ice. He returned briefly, but was not able to stay out for very long. Reports are that he will be further examined tonight. And defenseman Ryan McDonagh was shaken up after blocking a shot and was limping in the locker room following the game. He, too, will need further examination.
The Rangers now have two days off after this weekend roady before they come home to host the Montreal Canadiens for the first time this season. The Habs are a team trying to chase the Rangers in the standings, so that game will be of great importance.
And how about those New York Jets!? Great night for New York sports fans.